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. The KBEI was originally organized as the Business Ethics Center by Prof. Barry Castro, a Management professor at GVSU until his death in 2005. Barry was interested in west Michigan's business history, among other things, and demonstrated that much of the region's success came from an ethos that encouraged locally-owned businesses to remain locally-owned, to collaborate, and to cultivate philanthropic interests within their own communities.
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 unprecedented 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. For example, in 2013-2014 the Business Ethics Center will be continuing our partnership with the Making Choices Michigan community collaborative, which is “committed to encouraging and facilitating advance care planning for people in Kent County. Our mission is to create a community culture that accepts every person's right to make choices about the care they receive at the end-of-life and feel assured that those choices will be respected."
This is consistent with the BEC’s mission to explore and promote the intersection of business (in this case the health care profession and industry) and the common good. In the past we’ve helped organize and support MCMI seminars and other events, and in the upcoming year will look increase that support as the Initiative takes on a greater public profile, including introducing these facilitated discussions to young physicians and medical students. Please see our events page for further information, and our Resources page for links to articles about advanced care directives and ethical issues at the end of life.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.