The Business Ethics Center began with Professor Barry Castro’s investigation of West Michigan business history. He found that historically, success came from an ethos that encouraged locally-owned businesses to collaborate.
There is a great deal of local pride grown from this historic collaboration. Business leaders understand the local business ethos makes it easier for everyone to do business and makes the community a great deal more pleasant to live in. There is also, however, a widespread fear that what we have will disappear. Manufacturing, which has been central to the business community, is threatened. The generational transfers that sustain family business are harder to make. We are in the midst of an unprecendented effort to get businesses to abandon their historic roots for lower labor costs overseas or increasingly lucrative domestic relocation incentives. The BEC has served the local business community by articulating these concerns, encouraging creative dialogue about them, supporting relevant research, and helping business school faculty to understand these issues and to contribute to their resolution.
The BEC believes that conversation, reflection, and learning from each other is an important form of action. The Center also plays a subtle but significant match-making role that has contributed to its participants taking action. We are engaged in the following:
- Extending this model into other parts of the university and community. There is method underlying our approach—a method with both a substantial philosophical and cultural pedigree and substantial practical application. Doing something requires knowing something, and we all benefit from greater interdisciplinary dialogue.
- Continuing to be a significant conduit between the business community and GVSU faculty with an interest in business by developing a more formal program of research. Survey research on the local business community is the easiest and most common form of this sort of work, but not nearly so rich an undertaking as research with the local business community. Our experience demonstrates the latter requires the faculty member(s) to play an active role in matchmaking, interpreting and mediating between the academic and business world.
- Playing a role in the ongoing development of the curriculum and pedagogy around ethics in the business school. This sort of activity is traditional for centers and institutes and is a formal part of the Center’s mission.