The Invention of Incarceration

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Prisons have been controversial since their beginnings in the late 1700s—why do they keep failing to live up to expectations? As a young girl growing up in Northern California, Ashley Rubin dutifully said her prayers each night before…

Compliance Officers as “Ministers for the Future”

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In The Ministry for the Future, science-fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson draws a truly harrowing picture of the cataclysmic harm that climate change could inflict on our planet in the not-so-distant future. His tale is also about…

The Problem with Risk Assessments

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Like most rituals in health and safety, John Soria's story shows us that risk assessments have become meaningless and misaligned with their purpose. Five years ago, two safety inspectors boarded a ship docked for repairs in Shanghai. It…

Corporate America Has a Caste Problem

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Unwittingly, businesses and civil society in the US may have facilitated the dominant caste practices through preferential hiring of Indians (in reality, they are hiring only higher castes). Silicon Valley's diversity problems are not hidden,…

Ask a Good Question Every Day

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To an extraordinary degree, boards of directors can have the power to impact a C&E program simply by asking the right questions. The late Nobel Laureate in physics Isidor I. Rabi once said, ”My mother made me a scientist without ever…

How to Have Better Conversations About Ethics in Business

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The first step is to make conversations about ethics in business safe, interesting, and normal. It is often difficult, many people would agree, to talk about ethics in business. But why? It’s not because people don’t know what ethics…

ESG and the Risk of Moral Licensing

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One study on consumer behavior suggested that shoppers who brought their own bags felt licensed to buy more junk food. We are entering an era of unprecedented Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) imperatives, which will hopefully…

A 30-Year Experiment in Ethics and Compliance

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There is lots of room for improvement in this area—and experimentation. At least to me, that’s much of what makes the field exciting to be part of. In his 2008 book Experiments in Ethics, the philosopher Anthony Appiah made a strong…

A Behavioral Ethics and Compliance Primer

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In 1991, when the Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Organizations went into effect, Compliance and Ethics (“C&E”) programs became a part of the business landscape in the United States. There was, at the time, a fairly widespread…

Why Promotion Is a Moral Hazard

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"When leaders very publicly fail due to ethical lapses, some people are inclined to say, 'See, that’s just how business is,' instead of learning a more inspiring lesson." Jessica Kennedy gets frustrated when people—often academics—try…