About the organisation

logo ethicalsystems.orgEthical Systems is ​a non-profit organisation, which describes itself as

“a collaboration of top researchers, most of whom are faculty at leading business schools. We all share the conviction, backed by research, that in the long run, good ethics is good business. We believe that integrity in business can be enhanced by wise leaders who take a systems approach to their organizations and the environments in which they operate. “

So what they promote is “ethical systems design“, which is

“based on the principle that behavior in organizations must be understood by examining the interaction of many factors and forces; you should not start by looking for good and bad people”

Here are some examples they give on the same introductory page:

“For instance, if you want to improve trust and morale within your company, you could change your hiring practices, improve the fairness of your internal procedures and change some toxic social contexts, while modeling ethical leadership at the top and supporting it in the middle. If you do all of these things, you’ll profoundly change your company’s culture in ways that will make the changes self-sustaining—and ultimately profitable.”

What you can find on their site

The core of the site is the research area, where they “review the existing research and distill best practices based on insights from the behavioral and management sciences.” There is a review page for about 20 topics: accounting, cheating & honesty, compliance & ethics programs, conflicts of interest, contextual influences, corporate culture, corporate governance, corruption, decision making, ethics pays, fairness, human rights, law, leadership, negotiation, personality & personnel, teaching ethics, trust, and whistle blowing. For each of these topics, the site addresses:

  • Ideas to Apply
  • Areas of Research
  • Case Studies
  • Open Questions
  • Where To Learn More

There is an even longer list of pages under construction, on topics such as corporate finance and long-term thinking.

A separate section offers some additional resources for the manager or CEO who has little time to study the research (but perhaps has time to read a novel while on an air plane). These resources include:

  • Extensive summaries of key books
  • A handful of ‘one-sheets‘ wit the suggestion to include these in new-hire packages or use in executive coaching programs
  • Videos and presentations from a 2016 conference on “Ethics By Design: How to Use Nudges, Norms and Laws to Improve Business Ethics
  • A reading list on capitalism, which “is unique in that it consists solely of fictional stories and novels published since 2000 and/or that are by or about emerging market and/or female authors and protagonists, directly or allegorically doing business

Sneak preview

A video of Jonathan Haidt opening the 2016 Ethics By Design Conference discussing the mission of Ethical Systems and the central advantages of ethical systems design for businesses today. Haidt is Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business and founder of Ethical Systems.