Why do ethical behavior and integrity matter in an ever-changing professional business environment?

6 min

Students and future change-makers of the business world are called to think about the meaning of ethics and integrity, discuss and find solutions to potential ethical dilemmas faced by companies and individuals on a daily basis.

Authors: IE University Ethics & Compliance Club Coordinators – Diane Valat, Victoria Luján, Fernanda Medeiros, Jessica Mendez and Liza-Marie Azar

“Why should I care about ethics and integrity?” This is a common question many professionals ask themselves at some point in their careers. The corporate world has also begun to wake up and notice the negative impact unethical behavior may have on companies, stakeholders, industries, and even entire countries.

Consumers and citizens have high expectations for companies when it comes to sustainability, environmental protection, respect for human rights, ethics, integrity and transparency. They don’t hesitate to hold companies that are not alligned with their values accountable for their actions by speaking up or switching to competitors that are more aligned with their personal convictions. When we see malpractices taking place, we, as individuals and society, should take action to stand up for the common good of maintaining ethics and integrity in the business world.

Ethics and integrity in action

As students and future change-makers of the business world, we came up with an idea for an experience where students and young professionals would be encouraged to think about the meaning of ethics and integrity. We believe in promoting discussions on this topic in order to inspire future generations and spread awareness about the benefits of behaving ethically, not just as individuals but as corporations as well.

The Ethics & Integrity Challenge was the perfect opportunity for students and young professionals coming from different countries and backgrounds to discuss and find solutions to potential ethical dilemmas faced by companies and individuals on a daily basis. Through this experience, we aim to provide participants with a safe space to discuss questions that arise throughout their professional (and personal) paths towards becoming “better people”.

Chief Ethics, Risk and Compliance Officer for Novartis, Klaus Moosmayer summarized this notion: “Especially in times such as these, with a lot of challenges and pain, it is so wonderful to see how the next generation of leaders embraces ethics and integrity.” By engaging the future leaders of the world in controversial decision-making, the Ethics & Integrity Challenge allowed participants to reflect on the impact of their decisions as members of an organization, be it in the private, public or nonprofit sector.

The Ethics & Integrity Challenge 2020: Connecting the world with a unified purpose

This year, the challenge posed the scenario of a junior employee at a large company. This was done to immerse the participants in what could be their future reality or current working status. Being in a position where they did not necessarily “call the shots”, they may have found themselves between a rock and a hard place. As Sir Walpole once said, “every man has his price”. The overarching idea of the challenge was to prove the existence of an emerging wave of change that would defeat this cynical approach and show that ethical values will prevail over material compensation.

None of this would have been possible without the support we received from IE University, IE Law School, and Campus Life. Their assistance allowed us to offer an innovative approach to connect people with diverse profiles and experiences in the field of ethics. The use of real situations allowed a participant from Pakistan, currently studying his undergraduate degree, to be connected with a participant with over two years of professional experience who happened to be residing over five thousand kilometers away. It was rewarding to see the interaction between the diversity of backgrounds and education.

Why do ethical behavior and integrity matter in an ever-changing professional business environment?

Our panel of judges was composed of five highly experienced and diverse profiles: José Cerdeira, Chief Compliance Officer of American Express Spain, Newman Debs, General Counsel of Unilever for the Latin American region, Prof. María Hernández, Partner of Eversheds Sutherland Nicea in Spain and Executive Director of the LLM in Global Corporate Compliance at IE Law School, Anne-Violaine Monnie Agazzi, Group Ethics Officer at Capgemini’s HQ in France, and Klaus Moosmayer, Chief Ethics, Risk and Compliance Officer of Novartis HQ in Switzerland. Their commitment and dynamism provided the opportunity to network and gain much more than we thought was possible by connecting, brainstorming, innovating, and respecting each other’s ideas.

Fostering a positive, diverse and inclusive work environment can increase companies’ profitability in the medium and long run. Notwithstanding the profits of business sustainability, ethics and integrity allow companies to maintain their competitiveness through the trust and respect of their employees, suppliers and customers. We believe the Ethics & Integrity Challenge has set its participants on the path towards open thinking and discussions on the meaning of ethics. It has also highlighted the effect of intentional integrity on the corporate world, as promoted by leading figures like Rob Chesnut, former Chief Ethics Officer at Airbnb and author of Intentional Integrity: How Smart Companies Can Lead an Ethical Revolution, who honored us by being our inaugural speaker at last year’s challenge.

Looking to the future

With the superb success of the first edition, we are honored and delighted to announce the continuation of the Ethics & Integrity Challenge, marking the beginning of a new tradition at IE University. We will continue to challenge students and young professionals to broaden their perspective regarding ethical behavior. We are looking forward to seeing you at the competition in October 2021!

Authors: IE Ethics and Compliance Club committee composed of four leading coordinators with multidisciplinary backgrounds, and all passionate about building a better world, as well as, a more ethical and integral business environment:

Diane Valat, President, Dual Degree in Laws and International Relations student with experience in Ethics and Compliance
Victoria Lujan, Vice-President, Dual Degree in Politics, Law and Economics and LLB student with experience in IGOs
Jessica Mendez, Communications & PR Officer, Global MBA student at IE, with a broad experience in corporate communication and corporate responsibility
Fernanda Medeiros, Project Management Officer, LL.M candidate in Global Corporate Compliance at IE and Ethics & Compliance Specialist with more that 15 years of professional experience
Liza-Marie Azar, Former Club Secretary, Dual Bachelor of Law and International Relations student.