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Posted 10.12.05

Designed to spark new thinking around business and society research areas, the Center for B·A·W·B kicked off its Green Mountain Research Café series on Wednesday, September 14th in the Center’s new space in Room 208 of the Peter B. Lewis Building.

The first Research Café on Profits and World Benefit: What is the Role and Opportunity for Business in Society” was hosted by doctoral student Nadya Zhexembayeva.

Featured panelists from across Weatherhead, Dr. Julia Grant, associate professor of accounting; Dr. Sayan Chatterjee, Professor of Management Policy; and Dr. David Bright, research fellow for the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, began the conversation which drew 19 faculty, staff, and graduate level students into a spirited conversation about the ideal relationship between business and society, the role of academia in supporting and shaping this relationship, and the most pressing research questions in this area.

Zhexembayeva encouraged participants to discuss important frameworks and constructs such as corporate social responsibility (CSR), trust-related marketing, non-financial reporting, business ethics, corporate citizenship, energy policies, micro-lending and microfinance, public-private partnerships, sustainability reporting, social economics, transparency, environmental law and stakeholder management.

Many of the attendees at this first Research Café event were currently, actively pursuing CSR related research, according to Dr. David Bright, who found the high level of participation in the room encouraging. Bright spoke to the group about the “Positive Organizational Scholarship” perspective of a continuum spanning from weakness (i.e. unethical behavior) to normality and excellence. He suggested that pursing profit without world benefit or benefit without profit are both unsustainable ways of conducting business.

Dr. Grant addressed issues of accounting for non-financial performance where the result of responsible or irresponsible behavior is not immediately apparent and thus hard to account for. Service to the community and investors is currently very low because non-financial reporting is voluntary and accounting audits are not done to check the facts reported.

“The discussion provided a rich opportunity for considering the alignment of notions of profit and sustainability,” said Grant. “Highlights included some isolated examples where such alignment can work, along with other examples where it does not. As accounting research probes corporate governance and enhanced non-financial reporting, it can help develop new metrics and ways to frame these difficult problems.”

The classic perspective among business practitioners and educators is “if it makes money, do it”, according to Dr. Chatterjee who spoke about his interest in accessing new markets, especially those at the bottom of the economic pyramid by deleting the risk traditionally perceived to be present when doing business with the world’s poor.

Sponsored by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, this monthly gathering of will reveal a shared interest in business as an agent of world benefit. Each Research Café will center on a different area of research that seeks to benefit the world and will do so in some manner through business. Topics include fuel cells, public and private partnerships, environmental and human rights legal issues, management education at the intersection of business and society, and more. Each will be facilitated by a Ph.D. candidate affiliated with the Center for B?A?W?B and will feature a panel discussion followed by open dialogue.

The Research Café series will continue on the 2nd Wednesday of each month through May 2006. The next research café will be held on October 12, 2005, and will address “Innovative Strategies in Global Sustainability Entrepreneurship”. For more information please contact The Center for B·A·W·B at 216-368-3809 or bawb@case.edu.

 

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