Conference Report 2007

2007 Conference on Ethics in Business – Corporate Culture & Spirituality
Innovation through Ethics?

The Conference, which took place in the European Parliament from 2nd – 3rd December 2007, brought together 34 world leaders and over 200 delegates from diverse backgrounds. The Conference was a joint initiative of the International Association for Human Values (IAHV) and the Europe India Chamber of Commerce (EICC).

The Conference explored emerging leadership styles that are sustainable, and yet profitable, and examined the relationship between ethics and innovation. At the forefront of the discussion on sustainability was the issue of climate change, addressed by Dr. R.K. Pachauri, Chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize winning International Panel on Climate Change, and Prof. Jerzy Buzek, former Prime Minister of Poland.

Other prominent speakers included Mr. Nirj Deva, Member of European Parliament and Chairman of EICC, Prof. Ruud Lubbers, former Prime Minister of The Netherlands, Dr. Jacques Santer, former Prime Minister of Luxemburg and former President of the European Commission, Mr. Niels Christiansen, Vice-President of Nestle, Mr. Venugopal Dhoot, Chairman of Videocon Group, and Dr. Hanns Glatz, Delegate of the Board of Management, Daimler.

In the inaugural session. H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Founder of IAHV, said, “Today, where the boundaries of economics, politics and religion have all but disappeared, we must work towards building a holistic society which simultaneously addresses individual growth and societal challenges.” To achieve this, he said we need to spiritualize politics, globalize wisdom, socialize business, and secularize religion. He added that the world is ours and we need to rise to this challenge now.

In his opening speech, MEP Mr. Nirj Deva emphasized that human values are a global concept, the same whether it be in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe or the United States. He said, “Globalization has meant not only the globalization of economic systems and processes, but the globalization of human values as well.”

Throughout the Conference, participants heard testimonies from corporate executives, academics and religious leaders from around the globe on the contributions of human values to corporate success and sustainability. The urgent need for sustainable products and ethics-based leadership was repeatedly raised.

The Conference also provided a unique opportunity for youth leaders to interact with top leaders and present their views on sustainable business practices at the World Youth Forum. 55 youth, aged between 18 and 35, took part in a unique five-day leadership program. The youth, selected from 13 countries including Argentina, Togo, India, Switzerland and Norway, then made presentations at the Conference which evoked standing ovations and touched the hearts of many. The “Call of the Youth” was clearly heard and the leaders of tomorrow brought great enthusiasm, hope and joy to everyone.

The Conference also saw the announcement of the 2007 Ethics in Business Award, presented by IAHV.

In the category of ‘Outstanding Individual’, the Award was conferred upon Prof. Peter Eigen, Founder of Transparency International, for creating global awareness that corruption demoralizes societies and misallocates resources, for building a global coalition against corruption in business and public life, and for promoting the highest standards of accountability and good governance. In his acceptance address, Prof. Eigen pointed out that governance of the global economy is extremely weak at present; he said that a new system is needed, driven not only by member states, but by the need to promote high ethical standards.

In the category of ‘Outstanding Corporation’, the Award was conferred upon ING Bank, The Netherlands. The Award was presented to Mr. Rutger Koopmans, Senior Executive Vice President of ING Bank, for upholding high ethical values in business, for his strong personal commitment to the ING values of fair play and transparency in business dealings, and for his personal achievement of bringing peoples and cultures closer together in the context of strengthening human values in the corporate world. In his acceptance speech, Mr. Koopmans said that ethical behaviour is not only for the managers, but “should be the DNA of all employees.” He also stated that values-based management has been a major part of ING corporate culture since the founding of the corporation. He added, “I am committed to keeping the flame of human values burning.”

Mr. T.R. Doongaji, Managing Director of Tata Services and recipient of the 2006 Ethics in Business Award, held a special presentation/workshop during the Conference which focused on why business and ethics must go hand in hand.