Michigan State University is working to put ethics at the core of its mission, and the Broad College of Business is making strides to advance this commitment. Broad Spartans have long prioritized curating an educational experience and community built on the pillars of ethics and social responsibility, incorporating these values into our strategic plan.

This semester, the Broad College launched the Center for Ethical and Socially Responsible Leadership to elevate the importance of ethics across our curriculum, research, scholarship and more.

Dean Sanjay Gupta explained how Broad has taken the time to refine the approach to encompass ethics and socially responsible leadership.

Dean Sanjay Gupta at the 2021 MSU Ethics Symposium

“With the university’s collaborative ethics initiative gaining momentum, we have taken the time to refine our approach to encompass ethics and socially responsible leadership to better reflect the current emphasis in business and industry, to emphasize the theme as a key attribute of the Broad College brand, to distinguish ourselves from our peers and to prioritize our next steps,” Sanjay Gupta, Eli and Edythe L. Broad Dean, said.

Overall, such a collective focus on curricular, co-curricular and research activities is central to creating a synergistic approach to elevating the importance of ethics and social responsibility across all endeavors within the Broad College.

The center’s launch comes after successful groundwork laid out last fall at the 2021 MSU Ethics Symposium. The event welcomed more than 200 students, faculty, staff and alumni in person and online to consider how the community might weave ethics into all aspects of the university. During a day of transformative dialogue, the audience listened to compelling keynote speakers, renowned leaders in academic ethics, as well as one another.

Through the Center for Ethical and Socially Responsible Leadership, the Broad College enters its next chapter striving to fulfill an obligation to ensure equity in the workplace while preparing Broad Spartans for the rising new business imperative of stakeholder capitalism that considers not only the interests of shareholders but also customers, suppliers, employees, communities and the planet.

“We are clearly facing a new environment that requires us to redefine business education post-COVID that needs Broad graduates to think more carefully about the importance of ethics and social responsibility,” Sriram Narayanan, Kesseler Family Faculty Fellow in Supply Chain Management and the center’s inaugural faculty director, said. “Our idea of social responsibility also focuses on the rising importance of environmental, social and governance issues across many companies today. These challenges are at the intersection of businesses and communities.”

“Our goal is to develop the preeminent national center focused on ethics and socially responsible leadership across diverse business disciplines,” Gupta added.

The center will foster innovative thinking to shape next-generation leadership in two ways. First, it will create, curate and nurture curricular content and co-curricular experiences that lay a strong foundation for students to develop a deep understanding of ethical conduct and socially responsible decision making. Second, it will support research and scholarship that bridges theory and practice in ethics and social responsibility and establishes Broad College faculty as thought leaders on these issues.

The center aims to support faculty who plan to add new ethics or social responsibility content by helping them identify relevant topics, cases and activities for their course. Speakers, panels and events will also be offered and open to all students.

Jennifer Dunn, fixed-term associate professor of management and the center’s associate faculty director for curricular initiatives, explained that each of the college’s departments will consider how they can best incorporate an ethics or social responsibility lens into their content. The center will offer resources and assistance to help with implementation.

“To help make ethics more salient across the college, the center aims to be a creator, facilitator and promoter of ethics content, conversations and experiences. My hope is that through normalizing these discussions, we can build a collective habit of looking at the ethical angles of our decisions,” she said. “By providing students frequent exposure to ethics and social responsibility at Broad, they will be trained to think about the ethical and social impact of their business decisions with the same reflexivity that they think about the profit impact.”

The center’s focus will ensure that students will graduate with a strong understanding of what it means to be an ethical and socially responsible citizen and become inspiring leaders in their organizations.

“An ethical leader is one who establishes, and clearly communicates, a set of values and principles that can guide followers in their day-to-day decisions,” Dunn said. “When faced with difficult choices, they consider multiple perspectives before deciding on the best option, and they explain their decision process alongside the decision. They take ownership over their choices and hold themselves accountable for mistakes. To be a socially responsible leader would means that the established value system includes the ethical treatment of stakeholders, communities and the planet.”

The creation of the center reinforces the Spartan community’s commitment to creating a future where business leaders prioritize exercising a higher standard of ethics.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to set the course to distinguish ourselves as a top-of-mind business school for many years to come while remaining nimble enough to develop the next generation of ethical and entrepreneurial business leaders,” Gupta said. “The center will play an integral role in this effort, serving as a beacon for collaboration and a catalyst for innovation.”