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$10 Million Gift Endows Business Ethics Appraisal Center
 

By Kathy Gurchiek  6/6/2008
 

A $10 million endowment will benefit the corporate ethics and responsibility programs at the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, the college announced in a June 3, 2008, press conference.

The gift ranks among the most significant contributions made to a university for business ethics, according to Christopher Puto, dean of the Opus College of Business.

The benefactor is Harry R. Halloran Jr., chairman and CEO of the American Refining Group Inc. and founder and CEO of Energy Unlimited Inc., both Pennsylvania-based companies. Halloran also is the founder of Halloran Philanthropies, an organization supporting efforts to enhance global business ethics, microfinance and community service.

In a press release, Halloran cited his admiration for the college’s programs devoted to corporate ethics, which include the Center for Ethical Business Cultures (CEBC) and the college’s Self-Assessment and Improvement Process (SAIP).

“The university and its Opus College of Business are leaders in this critically important field, and I am grateful to be able to support their efforts.”

His donation will primarily benefit the general operation of the SAIP, which enables organizations to appraise and enhance their performance on questions of corporate ethics, governance and social responsibility. Halloran led the SAIP’s development and provided financial backing for its launch in May 2007.

The SAIP is a tool modeled upon the appraisal method pioneered by the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Program, according to the college.

“The SAIP doesn’t measure ethics directly. It measures or assesses the extent an organization has institutional methods that promote ethical conduct,” along with whether those processes have been applied consistently throughout an organization, and if they are effective and improved upon over time, said T. Dean Maines, president of the SAIP Institute.

Maines, a former HR executive with Cummins Inc., is one of the developers of the SAIP and since 2001 has served within Opus College as the research associate to the Koch Chair in Business Ethics.  

It “ties ethics to business processes and business practices,” such as how an organization’s business partnerships align with its values, Maines said. The SAIP,

he emphasized, is not an opinion survey, not a process for gathering information about an organization’s conduct, not a reporting platform and not a tool for stakeholder communication.

CEBC Vice President David H. Rodbourne noted that when it comes to ethical conduct, legal compliance is not enough.

“It’s absolutely critical to measure an organizations’ performance in creating an ethical culture,” he said. “We’ve got to set some standards.”

The endowment also will underwrite a three-year CEBC project to research and write a book chronicling the history of corporate responsibility from post-World War II to the present within the United States and globally.

There’s tremendous interest in corporate responsibility, Rodbourne pointed out, with companies beginning to rethink their strategies about how to link it to their business and how to build CSR into their core practices and processes.

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at kgurchiek@shrm.org.

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