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Leading with ethics

Apr 17, 2024
2 min Read
Bev Kracher Creighton

Throughout her career, Beverly Kracher, PhD, Robert B. Daugherty Endowed Chair in Business Ethics and Society at Creighton’s Heider College of Business, has sought to enforce a specific narrative of what constitutes good business practice. For Kracher, “good” is both profitable and ethical. She founded the Business Ethics Alliance 15 years ago to champion this broadened understanding of good business within the Greater Omaha business community. In August 2023, the Greater Omaha Chamber recognized Kracher’s impact on the business profession by inducting her into the Omaha Business Hall of Fame.

What did it mean to you to receive this honor?

The honor is a recognition that ethics matters in Greater Omaha. For me personally, being the first Heider faculty in the history of Creighton (who also happens to be the first female endowed chair in Heider) to be inducted into the Omaha Business Hall of Fame is pure joy.

Locally, you have been a pioneer in business ethics by founding the Business Ethics Alliance. Can you tell us a little about that organization and its purpose?

The Alliance is proof of the ethical climate pervading the Greater Omaha business community. It is a partnership between business leadership, Creighton’s Heider College of Business, the Better Business Bureau and the Greater Omaha Chamber. The Alliance is an educational initiative that fosters and encourages the ethical mindset in every business and economic development decision in our city. It is delivered through a mix of public events, invitation-only small group discussions, communication channels and in-house programming. It has helped people feel comfortable talking about doing the right thing.

When the Alliance was conceived back in the 2000s, we were reeling from corporate scandals, like Enron, Lehman Brothers and the notorious Bernie Madoff. How has corporate America improved since those day?

Business is like a waltz — two steps forward and one step back. We have definitely made forward steps with national ethics initiatives by the Business Roundtable, Blackrock and others. But there will always be backward steps. Bernie is a glaring example of unethical behavior in the extreme, and most of us can say, “We’re better than Bernie.” But the same ethical considerations Bernie Madoff magnificently breached are the same issues everyday business professionals continue to face today.

You’ve consulted and spoke on business ethics around the world. Are there certain characteristics of good business ethics that are consistent across cultures?

There are universal moral principles that apply across every aspect of life, for all time and all places. They are simple and powerful: don’t harm and do good. In business there are two specific values that emanate from these, namely, trust and respect. These two values form the fundamental business covenant that allows us to enter into contracts, compete and collaborate across cultures and the world.

What is currently happening in business ethics?

There are many significant topics that are playing out, but just to name a few: First, how businesses, both big and small, address climate questions and sustainability. Second, the increasing role — and ethics — of AI and generative technologies. But today, especially in this year of elections and worldwide political stress, we are asking when and how businesses should take public stands on social issues. We are looking for strong governing boards and executive leadership to lead our way.

In teaching the next generation of business leaders at Creighton, what is the one thing you would like them to remember in terms of business ethics?

The smartest, most successful leaders keep ethics front of mind. The business leaders who talk to my students are bold and creative and dispel the misconception that business ethics are for the meek, the mild and the weak of heart. Ethics is power.