Making Business Ethics a Cumulative Science

When businesses and researchers cooperate, collaborate and communicate, everyone wins. A new article in the premiere edition of Nature: Human Behavior by Ethical Systems founder Jonathan Haidt of NYU Stern and collaborator Linda Trevino of the University of Pennsylvania  illustrate just how far deeper partnership can take the field of business ethics research and why that will help companies and people to flourish.

In their piece, entitled “Make Business Ethics a Cumulative Science” Haidt and Trevino outline the various factors that have impeded ties between the business and research communities. Some are due to the misalignment between operational models— academics depend on open access to information towards the goal of building on research and understanding, while businesses need to maintain tight control over information about their inner-workings and ethics— while others are based in the complexity of business ethics as a field.

For business ethics research to be of maximal value to companies, as well as fellow researchers, it is best if it is an ever-updating discipline. From the article:

…Improving business ethics is not a one-time achievement. The world of business is ever-changing. We need to…generate a constant stream of innovations in business ethics, which are then tested empirically and selected so that the most effective ones become more common throughout the business world, while those that are ineffective or counter-productive fade away.

The article ends with specific suggestions for how to transform business ethics research to make it maximally useful to real businesses. The authors propose a business ethics “moon shot” – a large network of companies and researchers who work together to test when and why ethics pays, and to find ways to make it pay more reliably for more companies.

We urge you to read the article online and share your thoughts in the comments about ways to strengthen ethics and culture in companies >>