New hub for Canadian business ethics research at York

Over the last several years corporate scandals have dominated the news, drawing the practices of many corporations into sharp focus and creating an urgent need for research into how businesses conduct themselves on the global stage.

Wes CraggRising to meet this challenge, York University may soon be the hub for interdisciplinary business ethics research in Canada. Wes Cragg (left), Gardiner Professor of Business Ethics at the Schulich School of Business, is developing a business ethics research network that promises to draw the business community into close dialogue with academics, NGOs and government, fostering a synergistic research environment.

“This network will be the first of its kind in Canada,” says Cragg. “It will provide a vital centre for scholarly research, and it will also contribute greatly to the growing debate about the ethical responsibilities of corporations.”

Submitted to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Strategic Research Design Grants program, Cragg’s project embodies the very best of high-profile research that’s making a difference.

Cragg, an expert on business ethics, also recently completed a major interdisciplinary project that explores the effectiveness of ethics codes in regulating business practice on an international level. The resulting book, Ethics Codes, Corporations and the Challenge of Globalization (forthcoming, April 2005), edited by Cragg, draws together the insights of a number of diverse scholars, many with differing perspectives on how to regulate corporate behavior. But while some argue that corporations won’t behave without an international body of law to watch over them, Cragg’s own findings suggest differently.

“Corporations that allow independent, outside monitors to scrutinize their actions tend to abide by ethics codes,” says Cragg. “As long as corporate monitors are independent and able to publish their results, corporate self-regulation seems to work.”

Cragg’s book, just released, was supported and copy-edited by York graduate students over a period of six years. The research project, titled “Ethics Codes: The regulatory norms of a globalized society?” also brought together two national round tables of experts from different sectors of society, and has already had a policy impact, laying the foundation for Cragg’s vital, interdisciplinary research network.

This article was submitted to YFile by Jason Guriel, a York alumnus who writes on research and innovation