The Center for Leadership Ethics at the University of Arizona Eller College of Management has formed an advisory board, a step toward generating more ethical business leaders.
The center, also known as the CLE, promotes organizational ethics in three different areas, including faculty research, education and outreach programs.
“When I began our ethics journey, it was really meant to be different than any other center, program or initiative that you would find in a top flight business school and we’ve accomplished that,” said Paul Melendez, who founded CLE more than three years ago. Melendez also serves as a professor in Eller’s Department of Management and Organizations and as an assistant dean for Executive Education.
Melendez also developed the first UA business ethics course at the request of former Dean Mark Zupan. What started as a college class developed into a commitment by Melendez to “create an ethical culture within the college.” More ethics courses were added, more research was done and outreach programs began. Eventually, these initiatives led to the development of the center. It is staffed by Executive Director Stephen Gilliland, Research Director Aleks Ellis and Program Manager Anne Pentland. The center includes graduate student volunteers and the Eller Board of Honor and Integrity.
“We have a lot of individuals and institutions that support us in different ways so I thought that a board would be really ideal to help incorporate them formally into a process where we could share any progress we have made, also kind of tap into their experience that they have with some future direction that we may want to take the center,” Melendez said.
Kim States, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona, said business ethics is important to consumers.
“I think there is this idea in some areas or some demographics that maybe business in ethics isn’t as much of a hot topic as it was 10 years ago,” States said
According to a survey by the Edelman Trust Barometer, a public relations company that helps clients build relationships with stakeholders, global trust in business is regaining ground. Of those surveyed, 58 percent said they trusted businesses to do what is right. The number stayed the same from 2013 and was up from 53 percent in 2012.
“Ethics in business does have a very important place and I think that it always will,” States said, “I don’t think that will ever change because it’s something consumers value.”
The advisory board will help facilitate the CLE’s programs, including several ethics competitions and symposiums.
The CLE’s 12th Annual Collegiate Ethics Case Competition will take place in October and is the biggest event of its kind.
The event attracts approximately 32 business schools to participate in a special ethics case, with competition set up similarly to the bracket structure of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The Phoenix High School Ethics Forum will be April 25 and gives high school students a chance to be exposed to short business ethics cases, focus on good decision making skills and be introduced to the Eller College of Management. The Executive Ethics Symposium will occur in August.
“The symposium typically takes kind of a hot topic or an emerging topic and we showcase it by bringing in speakers, we have a panel discussion and we invite leaders from Southern Arizona that are not only from business but from government and nonprofits,” Melendez said. This year’s symposium will discuss socially responsible investing.
“All of these programs benefit high school students in the community, college students nationwide, and executives from Southern Arizona,” Melendez said.
States thinks initiatives for younger students on ethics is needed and the BBB includes a program designed for high school students. States says students are faced with ethical dilemmas almost daily.
“But without some life experience under your belt you might not see it as an ethical dilemma at the moment,” States said.
“I think planting that seed early is important, especially if they’re aspiring to be in business leadership positions.” States said.
The advisory board would help with the CLE’s needs to incorporate additional people or organizations into those programs, serve as judges, and provide or facilitate guest talks. Melendez plans to run the High School Ethics Forum on the UA campus in 2015 and include approximately 200 students, something that has not been done in the past.
“What that would require is for me to have a very large number of professionals that I know and trust and could very easily communicate with,” Melendez said.
Melendez also wants to establish a mentoring program that would engage advisory board members with students who are involved with the CLE. Melendez currently serves a mentor and faculty advisor for the UA chapter of Net Impact, an international, nonprofit organization that works to create a network of leaders interested in being more socially or environmentally responsible in business. The UA graduate chapter focuses on consulting projects and has a partnership with the CLE. It also helps run the Executive Ethics Symposium.
“Dr. Melendez and Dr. [Stephen] Gilliland have just been excellent at guidance, providing input, making connections for us to make our program better or add projects,” said Jaron Weston, president of the Net Impact chapter at the UA.
Melendez said he thinks programs like Net Impact will enjoy mentorship from advisory board members after the selection of the board members are complete.
“For me, being able to talk to them, hear about their stories, hear about the lessons they’ve learned and maybe establish a connection with them going forward, that would make me really happy,” Weston said.
Melendez has chosen Ron Sable, president of Concord Solutions Ltd., to chair the advisory board.
“Ron has been involved in everything that we do in the center and has been a supporter and advocate,” Melendez said, “He also has a very, very, very interesting and I think impressive resume.”
Sable has experience in government, business, nonprofits and served on many different types of boards. Sable’s resume includes former chairman of the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, senior executive at the Aerospace Corporation and McDonnell Douglas Corporation and special assistant to former U.S. president, Ronald Reagan for National Security Affairs and many other awards and accomplishments.
Sable first became involved with the UA by mentoring graduate students. After an introduction to Melendez, Sable says “it went from there.”
Melendez said Sable is “very passionate about the mission of the center.”
“There’s one way to live your life and that’s with integrity,” Sable said.
The board also includes Russ Johnson of Merchants Solutions, attorney Frank Cramer, Marc Blackmon of Gold Eagle, Adriana Kong-Romero of the Bank of America and an executive from Walgreens to be identified later this year.