The writer, of Omaha, is executive director of the Business Ethics Alliance and the Daugherty Chair in Business, Ethics and Society at Creighton University.
I recently had the unique honor to accompany Dennis Pate, CEO of the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, to watch trainers build trust with the animals they care for. As I learned about the need for building trusting relationships to operate one of the world’s top-rated zoos, I also thought about how important developing trust is within the culture of a business and how fortunate Omaha is to have leaders in our community who are committed to developing ethical organizations.
On Oct. 22, the Business Ethics Alliance, an Omaha-based nonprofit, provided such a forum for in-depth conversations on business ethics, EthicSpace. When we invited Omaha-area companies to a six-hour summit with a focus on “Influencing a High-Trust Work Culture,” the organizational response was impressive — the event sold out.
It is energizing, but not surprising, to find that ethics education is in high demand when considering the needs of business to keep ethics top of mind. Trust is involved in our economy more than ever before. For example, as consumers share data with companies, they do so with an expectation that their privacy will be protected. Business partners need to be able to anticipate that contracts will be upheld, even with associates they have never met who live halfway around the world. And from a recruitment standpoint, employees prioritize working in a trusting, inclusive environment that values their individuality.
The best organizations have ethical values, moral reasoning and courage built into their DNA. The mission of the Business Ethics Alliance is to build leadership, strengthen organizations and elevate greater Omaha through positive, practical business ethics. For years, our breakfast, lunch and after-work programs have been establishing healthy, open dialogues about business ethics out in the community, and our training and consulting have enhanced ethics in the workplace.
We envisioned EthicSpace as the time and space to provide a more robust, daylong ethics conversation. Leadership teams from more than 40 local companies and nonprofits, big and small, attended to expand their skills. They left with practical ethics takeaways to create environments of trust in their workplaces and help the collective culture in our community. All of Omaha benefited by their attendance.