Research Excellence

Creating a culture of ethical business leadership

Peter Dhillon. Photo Credit Martin Dee
Peter Dhillon. Photo Credit Martin Dee


It seems that almost every day there are new reports of unethical behaviour in the corporate world. While the 2008 international financial crisis put a spotlight on the ethical standards of the banking industry, corporate misbehaviour across all sectors continues to have devastating results. Most recently, Volkswagen has come under fire for lying about emissions in millions of its vehicles.

“In most industries there are examples of where an ethical lapse has led to serious problems for society,” says Dale Griffin, Interim Director at the Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics at the Sauder School of Business.

Established through a $7.5 million partnership with UBC alumnus and start an evolution campaign cabinet member Peter Dhillon, the centre is aiming to change corporate culture locally and around the world by supporting the study, teaching and promotion of values-driven business practices.

The Chairman of Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., the world’s leading producer of cranberry foods and beverages, Dhillon believes strongly in the power that the corporate world has to benefit society. He says that ethical behaviour needs to become a pillar of business school teaching and research.

“I’m partnering with Sauder to help ensure we are doing all we can to equip future leaders with the ethical perspectives they need to navigate the increasingly complex world of business.”

Once it’s open, the Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics will be the first centre at a Canadian business school to solely focus on the study, teaching and promotion of business ethics.

Its research will investigate and influence best practices across business disciplines, from marketing and human resources to finance and accounting. It will also contribute to academic programming across Sauder, from undergraduate and graduate curriculum to executive education.

A search for a leading professor in the field of business ethics to direct the centre’s activities is underway. Griffin says the search has drawn international attention, and the planning process is generating buzz amongst Sauder’s faculty, staff and students.

“Even though the centre is still being developed, there has already been an impact in terms of the conversations that are going on. It’s really struck up a level of intellectual excitement around how can we make an impact and bring the school together through this.”

The centre will occupy a prominent space in the Sauder School of Business building on UBC’s Vancouver campus. A resource for UBC and other business schools, it will provide a physical home for ethics-focused activities at Sauder and a venue for interaction with the business community.

Collaboration with the business community will be a mainstay of the centre. Once it is established, an advisory board made up of business leaders will be assembled to support and extend its work. The centre will customize its community outreach programs to the needs of businesses, such as working with a company’s executive team to develop their ethical guidelines or hosting workshops on values-based decision making. The centre will also host a range of public engagement initiatives and bring global thought leaders together to share best practices.

“There is an impression that you can’t do well in business unless you set ethics aside. I want to break that image,” says Dhillon. “You can be caring, you can be thoughtful, and still be successful.”