Our first year

EthicalSystems.org is almost one year old, and like all one-year-olds, it has grown a lot in its first year. When we launched the site in January, we had 18 collaborators, 14 research pages, and no real budget. But we were bound together by the belief that the massive body of research on ethics in organizations could and should be synthesized and made accessible, for free, to the business community, regulators, and the general public. We were optimistic that we could develop an “ethical systems design” approach that would make ethical behavior easier within organizations.

Now, 11 months later, we have 22 collaborators and five affiliated members; we have 18 research pages with 3 more in progress, and we have raised $245,000 to pay for staff and other expenses. With that money we have hired a full-time executive director (Bryan Turner), a part time business outreach director (Katharina Weghmann) and a part time communications director (Jeremy Willinger). We now offer many more book summaries and teaching materials, including dozens of original short videos in our #EthSys Insights series, created by Joshua Elle. With all this great material, we’ve gotten great press coverage, including the New York Times,

Now that we’ve got so much to offer, our top priority since September has been reaching out to the businesses, professionals, and regulators who can use it. Katharina has been meeting with businesspeople and compliance officers to learn more about their needs; Bryan has been forging alliances with business ethics organizations. In 2015 we’ll begin working with regulators, drawing on the expertise of our newest collaborator, Jim Lager, who is a deputy ethics counselor at the US Government Accountability Office.

Our ultimate goal is to improve the ethical behavior of American business by helping companies to make ethics easy (that is, to make ethical behavior the default or automatic response). Our research tells us that ethical companies are more profitable too, so it’s easy to make the business case for ethical systems design. But we know that people are not just motivated by money. At EthicalSystems.org, we try to make the inspiring case for ethics too. We believe that creating goods and services is virtuous. Business is fundamentally good, and we want America to regain its trust in its businesses, large and small.

So happy birthday to us. If you’d like to get more involved, please visit EthicalSystems.org, where you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and you can sign up for this newsletter (if this was forwarded to you).

Jon Haidt