A History of the International Society of Business, Economics, and Ethics, Part 3

By July 14, 2016History, News

A HISTORY OF THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF BUSINESS, ECONOMICS, AND ETHICS
PART III
Deon Rossouw

The Ethics Institute (Pretoria, South Africa)

Background
The first two parts of the ISBEE history dealt in detail with the founding years of the organization – of which I was not part. Consequently, I have nothing to contribute to that important and interesting period of the ISBEE history that was so well narrated by the first two Presidents of ISBEE, viz. Richard De George and Georges Enderle.

My contribution to the history of ISBEE will probably make more sense in the light of some autobiographical background. I will therefore start with a short description of how I got involved with ISBEE.

I hail from a continent that was a relative late starter in the field of Business Ethics. Business Ethics as a subject of teaching was only introduced in the late 1980s in Africa and then mostly in South Africa, where I was born and raised and still live to this day. The Business Ethics Network of Africa (BEN-Africa) counts amongst the youngest of the continental or regional Business Ethics network. It was only founded in 2000 and I served as Founding President of BEN-Africa from 2000-2004.

The first time that ISBEE appeared on my radar was when I attended the International Conference on Ethics of Business in a Global Economy in Columbus, Ohio on March 25-27, 1992. At the time I was a young academic who just moved from a background in Philosophy into the field of Business Ethics. This conference was organized by the Council for Ethics in Economics (CEinE). At the conference there was a symposium organized by ISBEE on the topic, “An Agenda for an International Society of Business, Economics, and Ethics” chaired by De George (as narrated in part 1 of this history), which I attended. However, I did not get involved in ISBEE at that stage.

My first real involvement with ISBEE started when I was invited by Georges Enderle to prepare a paper on “Business Ethics in South Africa”[ Rossouw GJ. 1997. Business Ethics in South Africa. Journal of Business Ethics, 16(14):1539-1547] for the First ISBEE World Congress that was to be held in Tokyo in July 1996.

The said paper was presented at a plenary session of the First ISBEE World Congress that was chaired by Georges Enderle. The paper was a contribution to the worldwide survey of Business Ethics that Enderle launched in preparation of the 1996 ISBEE Congress. During this session in which my paper was presented Georges asked the panel of presenters to reflect on what their respective regions of the world can contribute to the field of Business Ethics.

I gave Georges a relatively poor answer on what Africa can contribute, as I haven’t reflected properly at that stage about the unique African contribution to the field of Business Ethics. We were so busy playing catch-up with what has happened in Business Ethics in the USA and in Western Europe till that stage, that I simply have not applied my mind properly to the question of the unique contribution that Africa can make to Business Ethics.

The question about the unique contribution that African Business Ethics can make to the global discourse on Business Ethics was one of two overriding impressions that stayed with me after the 1996 ISBEE Congress. The second lasting impression that I was left with was that there was a huge difference between an international meeting and a global meeting of minds. What I experienced at Tokyo was not merely an international meeting (where persons from two or more countries meet), but a truly global meeting, where a deliberate effort was made to provide perspective on what was happening in the field of Business Ethics on a global scale. Both these impressions had a marked influence on how I shaped the agenda of ISBEE during my term as President – as will be seen later in this contribution to the ISBEE history.

At the Second ISBEE World Congress in Sao Paolo I was nominated and eventually elected as a member of the ISBEE Executive Committee. I served in that capacity till the Third ISBEE World Congress in Melbourne in 2004, where I was nominated as Vice-president (and President-elect) of ISBEE.

I was however never elected as Vice-president. Before the election could be held, the Vice-president (and President-elect) at the time, Cecilia Arruda, who was set to become the next President, announced that she would no longer be able to take up her new role due to unforeseen personal circumstances. I was instead nominated and eventually elected as the President of ISBEE for the term 2005-2008. The details of this development and the election that followed are described by Georges Enderle in Part II of the ISBEE History.

I will therefore pick up the history of ISBEE after the election of the Executive Committee of ISBEE over which I presided from 2005-2008. My contribution would consist of an overview of the structures, priorities and activities of ISBEE during that period. I will conclude with a few critical observations.

Organizational structures
An Executive Committee (ExCo) of 15 members was elected. The ExCo consisted of the following persons:

  • President: Deon Rossouw (South Africa)
  • Vice-president: Prakash Sethi (USA)
  • Immediate past-president: Georges Enderle (USA)
  • Honorary member (with voting rights) Cecilia Arruda (Brazil)
  • Charita Kruvant (USA)
  • Iwao Taka (Japan)
  • Joanne Ciulla (USA)
  • Laura Spence (UK)
  • Martha Sanudo (Mexico)
  • Peter Koslowski (Germany)
  • Thomas Dunfee (USA)
  • Thomas Hodel (Switzerland)
  • Tony Coady (Australia)
  • Vasanthi Srinivasan (India)
  • Xiaohe Lu (China)

In 2006 the executive committee co-opted Geoff Moore (UK) as the 16th member of the executive committee due to his involvement in ISBEE’s global research projects that were embarked upon in preparation of the 2008 ISBEE World Congress. The executive committee lost one of its members when Thomas Dunfee passed away shortly before the Fourth ISBEE World Congress in 2008.

The members of the Executive Committee were organized into 4 task teams that focused on the priorities that the ISBEE ExCo identified for their term of office. These task teams were:

  1. Task team for networking with business ethics organisations: The networking task team consists of the following members: Cecilia Arruda, Deon Rossouw, Vasanthi Srinivasan, Xiaohe Lu, Iwao Taka, Martha Sanudo, Prakash Sethi, and Laura Spence.
  2. ISBEE Website task team: Thomas Hodel served as ISBEE Webmaster. The other members of the website task team were Iwao Taka and Vasanthi Srinivasan.
  3. Research task team: The research task team consisted of Joanna Ciulla, Geoff Moore, Peter Koslowski and Tony Coady
  4. Publications task team: The publication task team consisted of Laura Spence, Joanna Ciulla and Tony Coady.

The executive committee held 7 meetings during its term of office, the minutes of which are available from the ISBEE secretariat. These 7 meetings were all conducted electronically. Meetings typically lasted around 4 weeks each. The procedure that was followed was that the President would announce the agenda to the ExCo with a request to members of ExCo to respond by expressing either their opinion or support on specific issues that were raised in the detailed agenda of the meeting. After allowing for about 2 weeks of back and forth responses, the President would then capture the consensus or majority view that emanated from the electronic discussion in a summary of the meeting that was then sent to ExCo members for final approval. The various task teams followed similar modus operandi.

In the absence of the possibility of meeting in person, these electronic meetings worked quite well and elicited good participation from ExCo members. The ExCo’s first meeting in person was when they convened almost at the end of their term at the Fourth ISBEE World Congress in Cape Town in July 2008.

Besides the ExCo task teams a Business Advisory Board consisting of business executives was also established. The Business Advisory Board for the 2005-2008 term consisted of the following members:

  • Edward Bickham, Executive Vice President, External Affairs at Anglo American plc (UK)
  • Lic. Eugenio Clariond Reyes, of Acura (Mexico)
  • Minoru Inaoka, Managing Director Administration and External Relations Division at Ito-yokado Co., Ltd. (Japan)
  • Reuel J. Khoza, Chairperson of Nedbank and Aka Capital (South Africa)
  • Charito Kruvant, Founder and President of Creative Associates International, Inc. (USA)
  • N. R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman of the Board and Chief Mentor at Infosys Technologies, Ltd. (India)
  • Karen Wood, Special Advisor and Head of Group Secretariat at BHP-Billiton (Australia)
  • Yasunori Yokote, Director, Senior Executive Managing Officer, Chief Compliance Officer, and Chief Privacy Officer at Mitsui & Co., LTD (Japan)

Two telephonic conferences of the Business Advisory Board were held during which the Board advised the ISBEE Executive Committee on issues related to the ethics of business and economics that they reckoned should be on the agenda of the Fourth ISBEE World Congress in 2008. The Business Advisory Board also assisted substantially in raising funds for the Fourth ISBEE World Congress.

Three members of the ExCo were tasked with arranging the meetings of the Business Advisory Board. They were Georges Enderle (convenor), Deon Rossouw and Thomas Dunfee.

Arranging and finding a mutually suitable time that suited all the members of the Business Advisory Board across diverse countries and time zones were no mean feat, but Georges Enderle heroically stuck to this task and was able to succeed in this regard.

Objectives for 2005-2008
The objectives that were pursued over the period of 2005 to 2008 were in main the following four:

  • To position ISBEE as a network of business ethics networks. In pursuit of this objective active networking with continental, regional, and country business ethics networks was pursued.
  • To communicate regularly with ISBEE members and partner organizations. In pursuit of this objective, regular newsletters and an active website were considered a priority.
  • To make knowledge produced through ISBEE initiated research and ISBEE congresses as widely accessible as possible. In pursuit of this objective various avenues for the publication of ISBEE generated knowledge were explored.
  • To ensure that the Fourth ISBEE World Congress is successfully hosted and that it is a truly global event: The Olympics of Business Ethics. In pursuit of this objective considerable effort was invested in ensuring participation from all continents in the Fourth ISBEE World Congress.

The specific activities and outcomes that were achieved in pursuit of these four objectives will be briefly discussed below.

Networking
The existing relationship between ISBEE and other business ethics organisations was reaffirmed and strengthened during the 2005-2008 term. A deliberate effort was made to position ISBEE as a network of business ethics networks. Formal agreements of partnership were forged with business ethics network organisations around the globe. These organisations include ALENE (Association Latinoamericana de Etica, Negocios y Economia) in Latin America, SBE (Society for Business Ethics) in the USA, EBEN (European Business Ethics Network) in Europe, BEN-Africa (Business Ethics Network of Africa) in Sub-Saharan Africa, JABES (Japan Business Ethics Society) in Japan, and CBERN (Canadian Business Ethics Research Network) in Canada. One edition of the ISBEE newsletter was devoted to ISBEE’s partner organisations, in which profiles of these organisations were featured.

All of the above partner organisations were also requested to nominate one of their executive members to serve on the ISBEE Global Programme Committee which was responsible for advising the ISBEE executive committee on both the theme and the most appropriate time for the Fourth ISBEE world congress

Since its inception, ISBEE has been involved in stimulating and supporting regional and continental business ethics networking activities. During the current term ISBEE was actively involved in the Second World Forum of China Studies at which a special track was devoted to the theme of ‘Freedoms and Responsibilities for Business in China – Governments, Corporations and Civil Society Organizations’. Several members of ISBEE participated in this forum and afterwards a book with the title: Freedoms and Responsibilities for Business in China: Government, Corporations, and Civil Society (edited by Xiaohe Lu and Deon Rossouw) was published.

ISBEE was also invited to participate through its president in the founding agreement and convention of the Canadian Business Ethics Research Network (CBERN) during 2007.

During the 2001-2004 term ISBEE entered into a co-operation agreement with the Caux Round Table (CRT) and this agreement came up for renewal during the 2005-2008 term of the ISBEE executive committee. The CRT and ISBEE mutually agreed to renew this agreement till 2010.

Three further co-operation agreements were entered into. An agreement was signed with the United Nations Global Compact in terms of which they agreed to lend support in finding appropriate speakers from the senior ranks of the Global Compact to participate in the ISBEE World Congress.

An agreement was also reached with Globethics.net to display links to each other’s websites on the respective websites of the two organisations. This assisted ISBEE members in gaining easier access to the Globethics.net open access digital library, while Globethics.net’s participants were given access to the ISBEE bibliography of business ethics publications.

ISBEE also agreed to support the activities of ADERSE (Association for the Development of Education and Research on Corporate Social Responsibility) and ADERSE agreed to do the same with regard to ISBEE. Georges Enderle served as liaison person between ISBEE and ADERSE.

Communication
Early in the new term of the 2005-2008 ExCo, it was decided to refresh the corporate identity of ISBEE, and also to align it with the reality that all ISBEE’s communication and activities were conducted in English. The old logo below:
isbee1
was thus replaced with the new logo below:
isbee2
The three circles, representing Business, Economics and Ethics, were no longer separate, but intersected, in order to signify ISBEE’s focus on the intersection between the fields of Business, Economics and Ethics.

In 2005 two issues of the ISBEE newsletter was published. Thereafter Gerhold Becker was appointed as editor-in-chief of the ISBEE newsletter and three issues per year were published from 2006 – 2008. The hardcopy version of the newsletter was mailed to all ISBEE members and ISBEE’s partner organisations. An electronic version of the newsletter was also published on the ISBEE website and each issue of the newsletter was downloaded on average 1500 times.

The ISBEE web-site remained an important mechanism for promoting the activities of ISBEE and its partner organisations. The ISBEE website also featured the ISBEE bibliography of articles published in 10 leading journals in the field of the ethics of business and economics.

Knowledge dissemination
Two books were published under the ISBEE banner during the 2005-2008 term, viz. Developing business ethics in China (edited by Xiaohe Lu and Georges Enderle, published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2006 [paperback in 2013] as part of the International Forum Series on Business Ethics) and Global perspectives on ethics of governance (edited by Deon Rossouw and Alejo Sison, published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.)

Whereas previously books emanating from the activities and congresses of ISBEE were published by a variety of publishers, the 2005-2008 ExCo decided to pursue the possibility of starting an own ISBEE book series with a well-established publishing house in order to ensure more permanence and a unique profile for the ISBEE book series. Negotiations for an ISBEE book series was successfully completed with Springer and a publishing agreement was signed. The first two books that were planned in the ISBEE book series were one on Fairness in International Trade and Investment and one on Ethics in Small and Medium Enterprises. The themes of the two books coincided with the themes of two global research projects that were commissioned by the ISBEE ExCo in preparation of the 2008 Fourth ISBEE World Congress. The first of these books, Fairness in International Trade (edited by Geoff Moore) was published in 2010 and the second one, Ethics in Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (edited by Laura Spence and Mollie Painter-Morland) was published in 2011.

Preparations for a number of special editions of journals based on papers presented at the Fourth ISBEE World Congress in Cape Town (2008) were also made. The following special editions of journals were foreseen:

  • Ethics and Governance (edited by Deon Rossouw)
  • Globalisation and Fairness in International Trade and Investment (edited by Christoph Stueckelberger and Geoff Moore)
  • Ethics and Leadership (edited by Joanne Ciulla)
  • Ethics in Small and Medium Enterprises (edited Laura Spence and Mollie Painter-Morland)
  • Selection of papers for Business Ethics Quarterly (edited by Pat Werhane)

The ISBEE website also proved to be very effective in the dissemination of the proceedings of the ISBEE World Congresses. A total of 55 papers emanating from the Third ISBEE World Congress (2004) were posted on the ISBEE website and each of these papers were accessed between 612 and 3976 times by 2008. A total of 98 papers prepared for the Fourth ISBEE World Congress (2008) were also posted on the ISBEE website.

The Fourth ISBEE World Congress
The Business Ethics Network of Africa’s (BEN-Africa) bid to host the Fourth ISBEE World Congress was approved by the executive committee of ISBEE in the first quarter of 2005. BEN-Africa contracted Rouge Communique as the event-organiser. The ownership of the Congress program remained with the ISBEE executive committee. Three committees were established to ensure the success of the event.

The Global Program Committee of the Fourth ISBEE World Congress were chaired by Deon Rossouw (President of ISBEE) and consisted of the following members: Cecilia Coutinho de Arruda (President of ALENE), Piet Naude (President of BEN-Africa), Thomas Maak (representing EBEN), Laura Hartman (representing SBE), Mr. Masakazu Mizutani (President of JABES).

The International Organizing Committee consisted of the following members of the ISBEE ExCo: Deon Rossouw (chair), Prakash Sethi, Georges Enderle, Cecilia Arruda, Charita Kruvant, Geoff Moore, Iwao Taka, Joanne Ciulla, Laura Spence, Martha Sanudo, Peter Koslowski, Thomas Dunfee, Thomas Hodel, Tony Coady, Vasanthi Srinivasan, Xiaohe Lu.

The Local Organizing Committee was chaired by the President of BEN-Africa, Piet Naude and consisted of Deon Rossouw, Saret Britz, Andre Snyman, Daniel Malan, Oliver Williams, Korien Sander, Johan Hattingh and Minka Vrba.

The following logo was designed for the event:
isbee3
The main theme of the Congress was: Global Fairness – Local Integrity. The Global Fairness part of the theme focused on Fairness in International Trade and Investment, while the Local Integrity part of the theme focused on Business Ethics in Small and Medium Enterprises.

In order to ensure that perspectives from around the globe would be reflected and represented at the Fourth ISBEE World Congress, two global research projects were initiated prior to the Congress. The theme of the first project was: Fairness in International Trade and Investment and the project was coordinated by Geoff Moore. The other project focused on Ethics in Small and Medium Enterprises and was coordinated by Laura Spence. Two global research teams with representatives from all continents were established to conduct the research. The findings of these research projects were presented at the Fourth ISBEE World Congress in Cape Town.

The congress attracted just over 200 participants from all continents and from 39 countries and 98 papers were prepared and posted on the ISBEE website prior to the congress. The distribution in terms of the different world regions from which participants came, is illustrated in the graph below:
isbee4

Some of the prominent speakers that addressed the Fourth ISBEE World Congress that was held from 15-18 July 2008 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre included Mervyn King, Tom Donaldson, Paul Collier and Narayana Murthy. The Congress was concluded by a session in which founding figures of ISBEE reflected on the history and future of ISBEE. The session was moderated by Ken Goodpaster and the panelists were Tom Donaldson, Georges Enderle and Henk van Luijk. (A comprehensive report on the Fourth ISBEE World Congress is available from the ISBEE secretariat.)

On the last day of the Fourth ISBEE World Congress a General Assembly of ISBEE was held. At this meeting the preparation for the election of a new executive committee of ISBEE commenced. The following nomination list was prepared by the 2005-2008 executive committee and tabled at the meeting:

  • Pat Werhane (President)
  • Laura Spence (Vice-president, but not available to become president-elect)
  • Deon Rossouw (Immediate past-president)
  • Alvaro Pezoa Bissieres (Chile)
  • Gao Guoxi (China)
  • Geoff Moore (UK)
  • Joanne Ciulla (USA)
  • Martha Sanudo (Mexico)
  • Mollie Painter-Morland (South Africa / USA)
  • N Balasubramanian (India)
  • Piet Naude (South Africa)
  • Thomas Maak (Switzerland)
  • Toru Umeda (Japan)
  • Wes Cragg (Canada)
  • Zhou Zhucheng (China)

It was further proposed that the chair of the organizing committee of the Fifth ISBEE World Congress should be co-opted to the new executive committee once the hosts of the said congress had been decided upon by the new executive committee.

The General Assembly approved the nomination list as well as the above proposal. Members of ISBEE were invited to submit further nominations till July, 31, 2008.

At the time of the General Assembly the process of selecting the host of the Fifth ISBEE World Congress was also started. At that stage only one letter of intent to host the Fifth ISBEE World Congress in 2012 had been received. It came from the Centre of Business and Society at the IESE Business School in Barcelona. There were however indications of further bids that might be submitted. ISBEE members were invited to submit further bids for hosting the Fifth ISBEE World Congress. Full bid documents could be submitted to the ISBEE secretariat till the end of November 2008, after which the newly elected ExCo would make the final decision on who the host of the next quadrennial ISBEE World Congress would be.

Beyond 2008
The ExCo that was proposed at the general meeting in Cape Town was eventually duly elected after an electronic voting process in the latter half of 2008. One of the first assignments of the new ISBEE ExCo was to appoint the host of the Fifth ISBEE World Congress that was to be held in 2012. Besides the bid received from the Centre of Business and Society at the IESE Business School in Barcelona, a second bid to host the ISBEE Congress was received from the Business Ethics Centre at Kozminski University in Warsaw, Poland. The latter bid was adjudicated as the successful one and as a result Wojciech Gasparski from Kozminski University was coopted to serve as the 16th member of the ISBEE ExCo for the 2009-2012 term.

I will leave it to my successors to narrate the history of ISBEE beyond 2008.

Critical reflections
ISBEE had a strong developmental agenda ever since its inception. This is one of the reasons why all six of the ISBEE World Congresses that were organized thus far have been hosted outside of the USA and Western Europe where Business and Economic Ethics is most developed both as an academic field and as a management practice. This developmental agenda is highly commendable and much needed. I hope that the future leadership of ISBEE will retain this focus on using ISBEE as a vehicle for promoting and advancing Business and Economic Ethics in parts of the world where it is still relatively underdeveloped.

As part of its developmental agenda ISBEE should also strive to overcome the Global North versus Global South divide in Business and Economic Ethics as far as knowledge resources are concerned. Whereas the Global North have fairly easy access to knowledge resources in the field of Business and Economic Ethics, the same cannot be said of the Global South, where access to knowledge resources are often limited and prohibitively expensive.

The ISBEE book series, for example, is a rich knowledge resource for people with an interest in Business and Economic Ethics around the globe, but it is unfortunately so expensive that it can hardly be afforded by many in the Global South. It therefore remains imperative that ISBEE should always strive to find more affordable ways of sharing its knowledge resources with people from all parts of the world. Open access knowledge resources can play an important role in this regard. The open access collection of papers that ISBEE started and that is available as a special collection in the globethics.net open access digital library can play an important role in this regard. It is hoped that this and similar initiatives will remain a priority for the future leadership of ISBEE.

Similarly, it is important that ISBEE should keep on playing a supporting role to encourage and enhance the development of Business and Economic Ethics in parts of the world where such networks do not yet exist or where such networks are not yet well-established. The Global Survey of Business Ethics[ Rossouw, D. & Stueckelberger, C. (Eds). 2012. Global Survey of Business Ethics in Training, Teaching and Research. Geneva: Globethics.net.] that was published in 2012 made it clear that such a need exists specifically in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, in Central Asia and in South and South-East Asia. The formation of such Business Ethics networks can play a vital role not only in enhancing teaching and research in Business and Economic Ethics, but also in stimulating business ethics as management practice.

In the introduction to this chapter of the history of ISBEE I mentioned that one of the lasting impressions that I had of the First ISBEE World Congress was that it was a truly global event. It succeeded in providing participants in that event with perspective on what was happening on a global scale with regard to the teaching, research and management of ethics. In the ISBEE congresses that followed there were always the intention to build on this tradition that was started with the Tokyo Congress in 1996. At subsequent ISBEE Congresses there were always an attempt to provide perspective on some element or some issue regarding Business and Economic Ethics on a global scale. The success of such attempts, however, depends on the preparation that is done in the years prior to the Congress. In order to develop meaningful comparative global perspectives, it is imperative that (a) a common framework for research on a specific theme be developed well in advance of the Congress, (b) that regional or continental research teams are established to conduct the research, and (c) that the perspectives of the various regions or continents are critically compared.

Once more I trust that the future leadership of ISBEE will continue and foster this tradition of ISBEE as it is an essential ingredient of ensuring that ISBEE Congresses of the future can rightfully claim to be “The Olympics of Business Ethics”.