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Ethics & Governance Think Tank

A platform founded and led by Rabbi Gideon Pogrund to explore and influence how South African business can follow a more ethical approach, thereby building trust and helping to secure a more successful, sustainable future for the business community and the country.

There is widespread concern over the ethical failures, social problems and low trust levels which beset South Africa. Fraud, corruption, compromised institutional integrity, credit ratings downgrades, recession, poverty, unemployment, social polarisation, populist political agendas – all of these issues threaten the conditions of the success of business and the country.

To confront these challenges, GIBS has established an Ethics and Governance Think Tank, under the leadership of Rabbi Gideon Pogrund – a ground-breaking initiative and the first project of its kind in South Africa. It works to bring people together and generate creative insights and ideas which can be translated into pragmatic plans of action.

In 2018 the GIBS Ethics and Governance Think Tank was selected as one of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business’ (AACSB’s) Innovations That Inspire – an initiative that provides global recognition of the innovative ways that business schools are identifying and creating opportunities to nurture, support, and connect others across the leadership development ecosystem. Read more here.

Three interrelated themes are at the heart of the initiative: 

  1. That the corporation is not an amoral entity whose sole purpose is to maximise shareholder wealth within the parameters of the law. Increasingly in  the world and especially in the current South African context, business is expected to assume the role of a moral protagonist, an agent with a wider set of responsibilities. Increasingly, corporations are required to demonstrate a commitment to ethical practices, based on values such as integrity, responsibility, fairness, respect and care.

  2. Ethical behaviour builds trust, and when there is trust, business and society flourish. Conversely, a lack of trust between business and its various stakeholders is profoundly dangerous.

  3. Ethics should not be seen as abstract, predictable and boring and merely an “add-on” to core commercial activities. Ethics is practical, dynamic and innovative and belongs at the centre of organisational decision making.


Our objectives are to build trust and help secure a successful, sustainable future for business and the country by:

  • Exploring and influencing how business can more effectively address fundamental societal challenges.

  • Engaging with different societal stakeholders to increase their appreciation of the positive role of business and discover shared values. 

  • Exploring and influencing how companies can follow a more ethical approach in their relationships with key stakeholders – employees, customers, investors, regulators and general society.

  • ‘Rebranding’ or changing perceptions about ethics, helping to get it recognised as crucial to business success and economic growth, and integral to corporate decision making. This means shifting ethics from the periphery to the centre: (a) moving beyond compliance so that it is less of a goal and more of an outcome and (b) moving beyond CSI so that addressing social and ethical challenges becomes part of core commercial activities.


Public forums 

The Think Tank has established itself as a pre-eminent platform for a national conversation about business ethics. This has been achieved via a series of public forums featuring influential South African thought leaders. All forums have drawn large audiences and have attracted substantial media coverage (television, radio, press).  Participants to date include: Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, Trevor Manuel, Pravin Gordhan, Nhlanhla Nene, Mcebisi Jonas, Laurie Dippenaar, Zyda Rylands, Mark Lamberti, Reuel Khoza, Nicky Newton-King, Bobby Godsell, Thandi Orleyn, Bonang Mohale, Suresh Kana, Stephen Koseff, Andile Sangqu, Adrian Gore, Sipho Pityana,  Sizwe Nxasana, Michael Katz, Nic Kohler and Mike Brown. 

Private dialogue

The Think Tank convenes and facilitates private dialogue forums between senior leaders from business and diverse societal stakeholders (including the public sector, labour, NGOs, academia, media and the student movements). These engagements build understanding and trust – an antidote to the dangerous polarisation threatening South Africa – and generate insights and recommendations for business.

Advocacy and lecturing 

Leveraging GIBS’ educational platform as one of Africa’s leading business schools, the thought leadership generated by the Think Tank is disseminated to current and future business leaders. This is done through courses which utilise innovative techniques and blend conceptual and experiential learning.

Research and publishing 

Research for case studies about ethical business models and practices in South Africa is underway. The cases will be incorporated into the GIBS curriculum and used as a teaching tool, capturing practical experiences and insights to influence the approaches of a wider cohort of companies. 

Ethics Barometer 

The Think Tank has established an Ethics Barometer for South Africa, using a research tool developed by Harvard Business School academics to engage with the business community as well as with diverse societal stakeholders. The aim is to better understand expectations and perceptions about business conduct, and offer practical recommendations about how to address the trust deficit and promote collaboration for collective impact. Business Leadership SA, the country's largest business association, has endorsed the Ethics Barometer and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange is taking part in it. Fifteen companies have participated in the first phase of this initiative. 

About Rabbi Gideon Pogrund

Gideon Pogrund conceptualised and established and now directs the GIBS Ethics and Governance Think Tank. He is also a faculty member at GIBS. 

He has an MA in Social and Political Sciences from Trinity College, Cambridge University, he is a rabbi who has held senior leadership positions, and also worked as a commodity trader for Louis Dreyfus. He has participated in high-level academic, government and inter-faith forums, and features as an international speaker and scholar-in-residence. He is the co-founder of Ethics Evolution, consulting with blue chip companies to improve their ethics management.



For a full-list of videos from the Ethics and Governance Think Tank click here.

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