University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Season 1, Episode 1: Introduction to Business Ethics

Cindy Moehring and Matt Waller
May 21, 2020  |  By Cindy Moehring

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Business ethics is an integral part of the corporate world. This introductory video offers information on how it applies to everyone in business, and the importance of integrating the topic in a practical way throughout a business school’s curriculum. Continue through this series to learn more about the principles of business ethics and how you can apply them.


Episode Transcript:


00:03 Cindy Moehring: Welcome to this edition of the BIS, The Business Integrity School, your resource for practical tips from a business ethics pro who's been there. I'm Cindy Moehring, the founder and executive chair of the Business Integrity Leadership Initiative at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Joining me today is Dr. Matt Waller, Dean of the Walton College.

00:21 Dr. Matt Waller: Cindy Moehring had a 20-year experience at Walmart, and she was Chief Ethics Officer. And so that's why one of the reasons she's leading this initiative is she's also passionate about it. And we're trying to bring more of this into the college. We already have a course on ethics, business ethics, but we think it needs to be more pervasive in the college and also outreach focused as well. So thank you for joining us.

00:50 Cindy Moehring: Sure.

00:51 Dr. Matt Waller: Why is business integrity important today?

00:55 Cindy Moehring: Well, it's really important in many respects but it almost seems as though it's been normalized in our society right now, so we're kind of at the pivotal moment of helping people really understand what is going on in the news that they hear today and how do they make sense of it. And some of the statistics you've seen lately are a little alarming, when in 2018, the number one reason for CEO departures from companies of the world's largest companies, the 2500, was for unethical behavior. That was the number one reason, that was more than poor financial performance and more than not getting along with their boards. And we saw a similar trend in 2019 and those numbers are still coming in, but it was a high trend again. And so, again, I think we're just at this point where we've almost normalized unethical behavior, where people can't make sense of all this news that's coming at them so quickly. So it's a perfect time in the time of Walton college where you already have the "be epic" values with integrity, embedded into the professionalism value to really bring that to life in an entirely integrated very practical, very experiential approach for students and really all the stakeholders of Walton College.

02:11 Dr. Matt Waller: Well, you know, one of the articles we're gonna talk about is the article that was from Harvard Business Review in 1993. And in that article it said that something like 75% of the business schools were working to include business ethics into their curriculum. And I think it's probably 100% now. I think the difference is, though, I think most business schools, could say they have it, but is it a part of their culture?

02:41 Cindy Moehring: That's right.

02:44 Dr. Matt Waller: Does every student get exposed to it? And is it a part of how they do business?

02:49 Cindy Moehring: Right, right, right. And I also think that in addition to a kind of pervasive in the culture, how is it really being taught? So, one of the things they talked about in the article about what's really wrong with business ethics and business schools and how it's being taught is that it's pretty philosophical, has been over the years pretty general and very impractical, and so it's...

03:13 Dr. Matt Waller: I remember in undergraduate I took a class called Ethics and my mom thought it was a really good idea.


03:24 Dr. Matt Waller: I'm like, they're not teaching me anything about what you would think of as ethics.

03:28 Cindy Moehring: Right, right. Business managers need to be able to have very practical information to deal with, they're trying to figure out when they get out into business. How do I design an organization that has the right kind of checks and balances, but isn't overly bureaucratic? How do I design a compensation system that's gonna incent people in the right way but yet not drive them to try to get results the wrong way? So real practical.

03:57 Dr. Matt Waller: You know about this experiment I did? Where I over a three-week period, I looked every day at the Wall Street Journal, to see seven days a week, to just find a business integrity violation to read about it and think about it. And I couldn't believe that it was easy to do, there were usually multiple in the Wall Street Journal every day. At some point it can kind of weigh on you reading about those things. So as we talk through these things, I think one of our challenges is going to be making it palatable for people.

04:31 Cindy Moehring: I agree. There's some good news stories out there too.

04:34 Dr. Matt Waller: There are.

04:34 Cindy Moehring: So we'll be sure to highlight some of those. But it's also cutting through all that noise so that it doesn't feel so heavy and helping people understand how to organize that information that's coming at them. So that they can avoid some of those same mistakes. I think in all those stories, the new cycles so fast, it comes out, you kind of shake your head, shrug your shoulders and move on. But I don't think enough people are stopping to think about what if that were me? Or what if that were my company? And what are the simple, practical tips that I can be employing and my company can be employing to make sure that that isn't me? 'Cause things happen.

05:11 Dr. Matt Waller: And everyone thinks they're ethical and everyone tries to be ethical.

05:17 Cindy Moehring: Yeah, yeah.

05:17 Dr. Matt Waller: But you see all these failures out there.

05:19 Cindy Moehring: Right.

05:19 Dr. Matt Waller: And so that tells us that anybody could fall.

05:22 Cindy Moehring: Sure.

05:22 Dr. Matt Waller: So it has to be top of mind, you need to understand it if you're gonna be in business, and everyone's in business, and everyone knows that.

05:28 Cindy Moehring: And everyone is in business absolutely. So it is something that everyone needs to understand and relate to. And be able to make sense of, so that they don't find themselves in one of those situations. Reputations get tattered and careers get destroyed, and lives get altered, and sometimes companies get brought to their knees. And those are very painful experiences to work through. So, we're gonna make it engaging and talk about current events and make it very practical and principle-based and simple to understand.

06:00 Dr. Matt Waller: Now, you introduced to me, some principles that were from an article you read, and that's what we're gonna include in this, is that right?

06:10 Cindy Moehring: It is, it is. The main lesson I would say and the practical tip to learn from today is; business schools, while we have made some progress I think over the years, there's still more room to go or we wouldn't be seeing all these stories in the Wall Street Journal or in all the other sources that we've got. So I think the real practical tip, is you've got to focus on how can you make it practical, how can you break it down into the very basic principles, and really focus on making it an integrated approach. So, you're hitting all of the business school students and helping them learn it in an experiential way.

06:44 Dr. Matt Waller: Well, and people that are actually practicing business right now will benefit from this too.

06:49 Cindy Moehring: And they're gonna learn from the same lessons too. This is like one of those life-long learning opportunities. We're gonna try to help those that are gonna enter the workforce learn it, but also help those that are already in the workforce make sense of all of this, so they can become better as well.

07:02 Dr. Matt Waller: Well, thank you for being willing to help us with this initiative.

07:04 Cindy Moehring: Happy to, excited to be here.


07:08 Cindy Moehring: Thanks for listening to today's episode of The BIS, The Business Integrity School. You can find us on YouTube, Google, SoundCloud, iTunes, or wherever you find your podcasts. Be sure to subscribe and rate us and you can find us by searching The BIS, that's one word, "T-H-E-B-I-S". Tune in next time for more practical tips from a pro.


Matt WallerCindy Moehring is the founder and executive chair of the Business Integrity Leadership Initiative at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. She recently retired from Walmart after 20 years, where she served as senior vice president, Global Chief Ethics Officer, and senior vice president, U.S. Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer.

Walton College

Walton College of Business

Since its founding at the University of Arkansas in 1926, the Sam M. Walton College of Business has grown to become the state's premier college of business – as well as a nationally competitive business school. Learn more...

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The initiative strives to foster a culture of integrity, and promote thought leadership and inquiry among scholars, students, and business leaders to address the ethical challenges inherent in our increasingly complex business world. Learn more...

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