Panel Discussion Shows That Business Ethics is a Messy Topic

Contributed by: Show Editorial Team

Humanity 2.0 Business Leaders in Ethics Panel was delivered by James Ledbetter, Tae Yoo, Louise Koch, Carlo D’Asaro Biondo, Tim Nixon, Simon Henzell-Thomas, David Dempsey, and Jean Oelwang at Humanity 2.0 (Vatican City)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 44% of executives believe AI’s most important benefit is providing data to make decisions
  • Cisco had a 45% reduction in GHG worldwide since 2007
  • More than 2/3 of Ikea cotton comes from sustainable sources

The way the Humanity 2.0 Business Leaders in Ethics Panel played out points to the unwieldiness of the topic. There simply isn’t a clear-cut solution for making corporations behave ethically. 

The messiness was clear right from the introductions of the panel members, during which the seven corporate thought leaders were asked to highlight something within the ethics space that was a priority for their company. The panel members, who represented companies ranging from Google and Salesforce to Ikea and Virgin, all gave different answers. Ultimately, there was no clear consensus on a definition of “ethics,” what constitutes ethical behavior or what initiatives should be prioritized. In fact, the seven panelists couldn’t even agree on whether or not it mattered that no universal ethical framework exists. They spent much of their time debating the point.      

“I think it’s a very serious issue that we don’t have a common issue,” said Carlo D’Asaro Biondo, President of EMEA Partnerships at Google. “It’s actually the first issue we are facing.”

Biondo argued that if businesses don’t come together on a framework, discussions around ethics will remain theoretical and emotional instead of practical. Other panelists, including Tae Yoo, SVP of Corporate Affairs and CSR at Cisco Systems, pushed back, saying, essentially, that creating a framework was a waste of time. 

“We naturally form networks around issues,” Yoo said. “There is a need to be agile so you don’t wait until there is a problem to try to figure out how to fix that problem.”

The panel was moderated by James Ledbetter, Editor-in-Chief at Inc. Magazine. It featured Louise Koch, Corporate Sustainability Director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Dell; Tim Nixon, Head of Sustainability Thought Leadership and Managing Editor of Sustainability at Thomson Reuters; Simon Henzell-Thomas, Global Head of Public Affairs for Ikea Group; David Dempsey, SVP at Salesforce; and Jean Oelwang, President and Trustee at Virgin Unite and B Team Senior Partner at Virgin. The discussion, part of the Humanity 2.0 Forum at the Vatican, was filmed live by the Traders Network Show, hosted by Matt Bird. 

If there was any agreement on a top issue, it was the need to address climate change. Nixon pointed to his firm’s research showing that about 250 companies are responsible for one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, he said, only about one in five of these companies show a readiness to decarbonize. 

In other words, corporate America is not yet ready to address the world’s most pressing ethical issues. This seemed to be evidenced by the circuitous discussion that stayed primarily in the realm of the big-picture. 

To be sure, it’s difficult to delve into details during a 45-minute panel conversation featuring eight powerful people. Plus, even if the discussion itself didn’t lead to any meaningful specific outcomes, it’s still an important part of the process.    

And as Oelwang, of Virgin, noted, big-picture thinking could actually be what’s needed at this moment. 

“Short-termism is destroying the world right now,” she said, arguing that leaders—like those 250 CEOs—need to step up to take stands on critical issues like climate change, social justice, and the ethical use of artificial intelligence. “How can we all be more courageous?”

(Written by Andrew Waite; Editing and revisions by Nicole Liddy)

PR and Media By: CommPro Worldwide

Links: Original Article

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