Adrian Papara is a full-time MBA student at the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa, with an interest in management consulting. Previously, he held various roles in the financial and marketing industries and earned a bachelor of arts, with a major in economics, from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. In his spare time, he volunteers with the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, raises funds for various charities and has a keen interest in recreational flying and automotive restoration. This is his third blog in a series.
With a few more months until graduation, as I reflect on my MBA program, I realize the topic of ethics in business has followed me along at every step.
It unsuspectingly popped up in my MBA application interview with a question along the lines of: “Tell me of a time when you were asked to do something you didn’t agree with.” The example that came to mind was one instance in which I was given the task of gathering sales intelligence of a particular condo development whose salesperson would never let his sales book out of sight. I could have just grabbed the book and bolted out of the door, returning to generous pats on the shoulder from my peers at the office, but I knew that doing so would be unethical.
Ethics have been revisited in almost every MBA course I’ve taken so far. Most recently, it came up in my financial accounting class in references to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, in which the United States enacted a bill in response to accounting scandals at Enron Corp., Tyco International Ltd., WorldCom Inc. and other corporate giants. In managerial accounting class, we discussed how accounting systems can be used to control the behaviour of management, and in management consulting class we learned about ethics in consulting and CMC Canada’s Uniform Code of Professional Conduct. Furthermore, in leadership and management studies, we discussed how ethical leaders can set the tone of conduct for all inside a company.
As we saw with the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis in the United States, ethical failures can jeopardize national economies and affect the entire global economy. It only makes sense that ethics have such a dominant role in business schools.
As current students and leaders of tomorrow, we need to become familiar with the ethical challenges that arise in the disciplines mentioned above. But as I learned in my corporate governance and ethics class, ethical behaviour needs to go beyond legal compliance or mere rule books. A valuable exercise in this course was the Global Anti-Corruption Project, where teams of students had to create the best corporate social responsibility (CSR) and legal risk management (LRM) frameworks for anti-corruption and anti-bribery.
This assignment helped answer that tough question that some small and medium-sized enterprises face when doing business globally: If I cannot pay bribes, what should be done alternatively? As our professor, Garrick Apollon, put it, a great CSR and LRM framework should aim to go beyond the legal compliance and build a strong corporate culture where corruption is not tolerated and ethical leadership is supported and rewarded.
To ensure high-quality recommendations, students were coached by a representative of Transparency International Canada and team presentations were evaluated by a panel of jurors led by the chief juror, Sergeant Patrice Poitevin, a senior investigator and outreach co-ordinator with the RCMP’s Sensitive and International Investigations division.
This past winter semester, I also had the opportunity to work alongside Prof. Apollon as a teaching assistant and replicate this anti-corruption and anti-bribery project at the undergraduate level with a smaller scope. In preparation for their presentations, I have mentored and coached eight teams of undergrads.
In the process, I passed on lessons I had learned from previously doing the anti-corruption project. As an added perk, the undergrad team with the best project might have the opportunity to have its work used by the RCMP for corporate outreach and crime prevention to the business community in Canada, as determined by Sgt. Poitevin and first-time juror Mark Seebaran, a Crown counsel at Public Prosecution Service of Canada.
As I go forward, my ethics training will guide my decisions as a leader and I’ll reflect on a piece of wisdom from my marketing professor – the word MBA will now always have a double meaning for myself – “master of business administration” and “must be accountable.”
Adrian can be reached through his LinkedIn profile.