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June 2020, News

Pioneers in Business Ethics – Project Update

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Worrying about ethics in commerce may have begun in 1800 BC with the Code of Hammurabi, aimed at creating laws and norms in the ancient city of Babylon. As a separate academic discipline, though, modern normative business ethics began in the early 1970s following the development of medical ethics after World War II and prodded by the Watergate scandal. The founders of this discipline established methodologies for teaching and a produced a body of solid research. In addition, the late Michael Hoffman at Bentley University initiated the now flourishing corporate ethics and compliance officers associations. But these founders are no longer young, and in 2018 we lost two of them, Hoffman and Ronald Duska, former president of SBE.

In an effort to preserve the history and wisdom of these founders, we have created The Pioneers Project to interview, video and record these remaining pioneers. The project was designed and initiated by Gretchen Winter at the University of Illinois, Joan Dubinsky, retired Ethics Officer at the United Nations, Elaine Englehardt, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Utah Valley University, and Patricia Werhane, Professor Emerita at the University of Virginia and DePaul University and Adjunct Professor at the University of Illinois. The project is organized through the University of Illinois Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society and the University of Illinois Library in partnership with the Utah Valley University.

The project is generously supported technically and financially by partners including the Society for Business Ethics, the Darden School at the University of Virginia, the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Illinois, the University of Notre Dame, Utah Valley University, two Board members of Big Questions Productions, and the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics. Video production is conducted by Big Questions, a not-for-profit Emmy-award winning video production company.

To date we have filmed over 25 academics pioneers and 15 corporate ethics officers, and transcription efforts are underway at the University of Illinois. These videos and their transcriptions will be archived at the University of Illinois Library and Utah Valley University Library and available at no cost to academic institutions, practitioners, and the public for teaching and further research.

Under the direction of Daryl Koehn at DePaul University, some of the transcriptions of academics will be edited and reproduced in the Business and Professional Ethics Journal. Springer Nature is planning to publish them as a book, an e-book, or in another video format.

Tax deductible contributions to this project, including in-kind contributions, are gratefully accepted. For further information you may contact two of the project leaders:

  • Patricia Werhane, at, or
  • Gretchen Winter, Executive Director, Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society, University of Illinois Gies College of Business at

Funding is necessary to edit the videos (which we have not been able to do) and to prepare short vignettes that will be useful in the classroom.