Business, Ethics and Faith: Bridging the Gulf

According to a recent study, clergy members think it's harder to be ethical in business than in any other professional pursuit. CEOs overwhelmingly disagree.

According to a recent study, clergy members think it’s harder to be ethical in business than in any other professional pursuit. CEOs overwhelmingly disagree.

“Bridging the Gulf: Business Ethics and Religious Faith,” a two-day seminar sponsored by the Yale Divinity School, the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and the School of Management (SOM), will take place Friday and Saturday, May 8 and 9, at the Divinity School, 409 Prospect St. The program aims to help church and business leaders discuss shared concerns and find common ground.

“This is the first opportunity at Yale Divinity School for business and religious leaders to come together to talk about the role of faith in the workplace and whether business is a moral entity,” says Divinity School student Ian Spaulding, one of the seminar organizers. “For a variety of reasons, many church leaders believe that business and ethics don’t mix. By contrast, business leaders often find that clergy are not able to speak to the challenges that they face while on the job. This symposium will bring church and business leaders together to learn how to talk about the role of faith and ethics in the business world. Participants will begin to learn a common language that will help bridge the gap between business, ethics and religious faith.”

The keynote address by C. William Pollard, chair of the ServiceMaster Co., is free and open to the public. His talk, “Business, Ethics and Religious Faith,” will take place at 7:45 p.m. in Marquand Chapel. Pollard, author of the best-selling book “The Soul of the Firm,” served as chief executive officer of ServiceMaster 1983-93. The company provides supportive management service to over 2,500 health care, educational and industrial facilities, and a variety of consumer services to over 6 million homeowners. It has been recognized by Fortune magazine as the number-one service company among the Fortune 500 and was cited as a “star of the future” by The Wall Street Journal.

Other speakers will include Laura L. Nash, senior research associate at the Institute for the Study of Economic Culture at Boston University, soon to become director of the program on business, values and leadership at Harvard Divinity School’s Center for the Study of Values in Public Life; David Schilling of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility; Todd Pittinsky, co-author of the recent book, “Working Fathers,” and doctoral candidate at Harvard’s Business School and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; and Michael Rion, an alumnus of Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, who founded Resources for Ethics and Management.

Yale participants include the Rev. Thomas Ogletree, professor of theological ethics at the Divinity School; Peter Dobkin Hall, director of the Program on Non-Profit Organizations; Divinity School students Janet Tanner and Paul W. Van Orden; and SOM faculty members Richard S. Shreve and Douglas Rae.

Spaulding, who is completing a Master of Arts in Religion degree at Yale Divinity School, works as business and human rights program manager for Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), a business association of 1400 companies. BSR helps member companies like Motorola, General Motors, Liz Claiborne, and Levi Strauss & Co. adopt practices that advance corporate social responsibility and business ethics, especially in the areas of human rights and fair labor practices. Prior to his current position, he worked as a consultant for KPMG Business Ethics Services – a consulting practice within KPMG Peat Marwick that helped companies create and assess internal ethics and compliance programs. He has also worked for the American Society for Training and Development and served as overseas research assistant for Stuart Bell, a member of the British Parliament. Ian earned his BA from American University.

“Bridging the Gulf” is funded in part by KPMG. The fee for the seminar is $175; $35 for Yale students. For registration information, call (203) 764-9300.

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