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GIBS |
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. Operating at the intersection of academia and action, the Think Tank aims to develop thought leadership to impact attitudes and behaviours.

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 threaten the success of business and the country.

To confront these challenges, the GIBS Ethics and Governance Think Tank was established in 2016: 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 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.

Three interrelated themes are at the heart of the Think Tank:

  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.

Activities:

National conversation about ethics 

The Think Tank has developed a high-profile national conversation about business ethics. This has been achieved via public forums featuring prominent and influential leaders. 

Participants include: Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, Prof Thuli Madonsela, Trevor Manuel, Pravin Gordhan, Nhlanhla Nene, Mcebisi Jonas, Laurie Dippenaar, Zyda Rylands, Mark Lamberti, Reuel Khoza, Nicky Newton-King, Nonkululeko Nyembezi, Bobby Godsell, Mike Teke , Thandi Orleyn, Bonang Mohale, Mike Brown, Busisiwe Mavuso, Martin Kingston, Stephen Koseff, Andile Sangqu, Adrian Gore, Colin Coleman Sipho Pityana, Sabine Dall’Omo, Barry Swartzberg, Sizwe Nxasana, Michael Katz, Adrian Enthoven, Prof Adam Habib, Thandeka Gqubule, and Bishop Paul Verryn. 

All forums have been oversubscribed and have attracted significant media coverage.

Dialogue

The Think Tank convenes and facilitates dialogue sessions between senior leaders from business and diverse societal stakeholders - government, trade unions, churches, NGOs, academia and media. These sessions tackle some of the toughest and most contentious issues facing SA, including corruption, poverty, inequality, land, racism and transformation. As well as generating important insights, these engagements build understanding and trust – an antidote to the dangerous polarisation in the country.

Research and writing 

In collaboration with GIBS faculty as well as international academics, we research and write scholarly papers, white papers and case studies. Developing academic outputs is a strong and increasing area of focus for the Think Tank.

Advocacy and lecturing  

Leveraging GIBS’ educational platform, the thought leadership generated by the Think Tank does not remain in an ivory tower. It is disseminated to current and future business leaders through courses which utilise innovative techniques and blend conceptual and experiential learning 

International links 

We have built collaborative relationships with leading international scholars and institutions including Harvard Business School and Wharton. This has enabled us to access cutting-edge thinking and best practices, enriching our thought leadership. It is also to ensure that innovative work being done in South Africa travels beyond our borders and has a wider influence.

We are currently engaged in two research projects in partnership with Nottingham Business School in the UK:

  • "Using digital technologies to address women's rights and in particular gender-based violence". 

GIBS Ethics Barometer 

Using a Harvard Business School research tool made relevant to the local context, the Think Tank launched the GIBS Ethics Barometer for SA business during 2019. This initiative has become our flagship project, and supports and strengthens our other activities.  

The Ethics Barometer was launched in partnership with Business Leadership South Africa, one of the country’s largest business associations. In its first phase, 15 leading companies from diverse sectors participated. These sectors included banking, insurance, mining retail, property, leisure, and professional services. Quantitative and qualitative data was collected from over 8,000 employees. Company-specific data was aggregated and anonymised into the general data, enabling us to construct a national benchmark against which companies could measure their ethical performance. We have received positive endorsements from participating companies’ CEOs, indicating that this instrument delivers practical outcomes and benefits.

Our aim is to expand the number of participating companies and sectors, as well as to survey other stakeholder groups, including customers, suppliers and local communities. We hope that by measuring ethical performance, it will be managed more effectively and eventually become part of a 'new normal' for SA business.

Click here to read the report of the national results from the Ethics Barometer's first phase.


About Rabbi Gideon Pogrund

Gideon Pogrund is the founding director of the Ethics and Governance Think Tank, and is a GIBS adjunct faculty member.  

He works with senior business, government and civil society leaders. He consults to corporations, helping them to improve their ethics management, and his clients include the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), Sanlam, Liberty, Discovery, the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) and Google. He has spoken at international business schools such as HEC Paris, Baruch College in New York and Nottingham Business School and participated in international leadership forums including the World Economic Forum (WEF) Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI). He has contributed articles and been interviewed in various media outlets, including Business Day, the Financial Mail, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Finweek, Carte Blanche, CNBC Africa and Thomson Reuters. He is a member of the Council of Elders of the Institute of Stakeholder Relations Southern Africa (ISRSA). He has held senior rabbinic positions. He holds a MA from Trinity College, Cambridge University.

Email: pogrundg@gibs.co.za

Videos

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


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