Dean Carolyn Woo: Globetrotting in the name of business ethics

Author: Carol Elliott


By the time the new school year starts in September, Carolyn Y. Woo of the University of Notre Dame will have logged more than 62,000 air travel miles during the summer. That’s four major continents – with repeat visits to several – in less than 100 days.

From Uganda to Shanghai, New York, Hong Kong and Australia, the Martin J. Gillen Dean of the Mendoza College of Business will talk with more than a dozen business and alumni groups about a topic she finds increasingly urgent in shaping the global marketplace: business ethics.

“When we see the recent cases of corporate malfeasance, we can easily agree that ethics and values are sorely needed as driving leadership principles,” said Woo. “But there’s a bigger picture here, too, that goes beyond business ethics as the answer to bad behavior. On the global level, business can be a force for good in solving society’s problems, such as poverty, violence and disease. This is the conversation that should be taking place in classrooms, boardrooms C-suites and government offices.”

Woo, who has traveled extensively to some of the world’s most troublesome hot spots, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, often works with the United Nations and other NGOs, such as the nonprofit Catholic Relief Services, to study and work with groups involved with social responsibility efforts.

During her visit to Uganda in June, Woo helped to conduct a needs-assessment workshop for a group of 40 African pastors and religious leaders from eight countries of Eastern Africa; namely, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The workshop, part of a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), was intended to help the leaders develop better human and resource management skills in an effort to meet the increasingly complex demands of their congregations as they faced HIV/AIDS, violence and the rise of radical Islam.

During her visit to Shanghai, she addressed deans of Chinese business schools on innovation in curriculum pertaining to ethics and corporate social responsibility.  In Hong Kong, Woo’s itinerary includes a talk to the business leaders associated with the American Chamber of Commerce about the varying perspectives of business ethics in the West and in China.

On June 21-22, Woo serves on the Blue Ribbon Panel convened by Junior Achievement and accountancy firm Deloitte relating to ethics curriculum for JA participants.  On June 24, the business dean will participate in the United Nations Global Compact Leaders Summit 2010 convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The UN Global Compact is a principles-based initiative that encourages businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies. Woo represented AACSB International in the start-up of the Global Compact’s academic counterpart – Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), which provides a framework for academic institutions to advance the broader cause of corporate social responsibility and incorporate universal values into curricula and research. The Mendoza College was one of the first signatories for the initiative, which was unveiled during the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit in July 2007.

As part of the 2010 Summit, Woo is serving as the only representative from higher education on the plenary panel revealing a landmark survey of nearly 1,000 CEOs about their views toward sustainability. “A New Era of Sustainability: UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study 2010” will discuss whether the business leaders see sustainability as a core value to be integrated with operations, how much progress corporations have made, and what they see as the challenges ahead in the next decade, among other issues.

“It’s important that we begin to view sustainability and other ethical issues not just in terms of morality, but how to truly bring the power of business to bear on the issues impacting the human community,” says Woo. “To accomplish that, we must monitor and measure these efforts. The survey will be an important tool to gauge where we are, and where we need to go from here.”