Interview with Alison Taylor, Director of BSR’s sustainability management practice
What are your main areas of research/work?
I’ve spent most of my career working in consulting roles, helping large companies navigate integrity challenges. These are becoming ever more complex, are not confined to a single department, and require difficult judgment calls at the critical intersection of risk, responsibility, and reputation.
Currently, I work for BSR, which is a global nonprofit organization that works with its network of more than 250 member companies and other partners to build a just and sustainable world. There, I saw the sustainability field attempting to tackle some core business ethics and integrity challenges, though from a very different angle than the approach taken by risk and compliance teams. Both perspectives are essential, but too many discussions and purported solutions remain separate, in distinct silos.
I see huge potential in a more integrated approach to ethics that incorporates ideas from both compliance and sustainability. The concept of a “culture of compliance” is strangely empty. It may sound obvious to say that corporate values statements must amount to more than words on a website, but the task of giving these concepts substance can be neglected. We still hesitate to question the dominant idea that all decisions to maximize profit are ethically neutral. And we still argue that a private sector organization needs a ‘business case’ for integrity, while expecting that the individuals within that organization should behave ethically. I argue that ideas taken from corporate responsibility and sustainability can provide both the direction and the decision-making frameworks we need to use when tackling today’s challenges in business ethics.