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Business Ethics Speakers' Series & Webcasts

Upcoming Events

Unless otherwise specified, events are held at the Ted Rogers School of Management, at 55 Dundas Street West, in Toronto.) Note that some but not all events are webcast, too.

Hershell Ezrin
“Public-Private Partnerships: Ethical Issues in Outsourcing Government Responsibilities”
March 30, 2015
TRS 1-073

What are the ethics surrounding the possible outsourcing of previously dedicated government services and facilities? With a significant cutback in government capacities over the past twenty years, is it even realistic to expect that the public sector can design, fund, operate and maintain needed infrastructure? In an era when there is a $200 billion infrastructure gap just for Canadian municipalities but political leaders at all levels are convinced the public wants balanced budgets, where will the dollars come from? And how should political leaders try to sell their publics on private involvement?

Distinguished Visiting Professor Hershell Ezrin will explore these themes drawing upon his experiences as a senior leader at all three levels of government.

Admission is free, but seating is limited, so please REGISTER


Chris MacDonald and Katherine Rittershaus
“Conflict of Interest Policies at Canadian Banks”
April 8, 2015 from 2-3:30 pm
TRS 3-099

Conflict of interest (COI) is an important issue for many institutions, but it is of crucial interest to banks. Institutions whose success depends centrally on public trust must be especially careful to avoid any situation that might, fairly or unfairly, tend to jeopardize that trust. So banks must be especially cautious about Conflict of Interest. Clear policies are the foundation upon which proper management of Conflict of Interest is built. But previous studies suggest that COI is poorly understood, and that COI policies are sometimes poorly written. This presentation presents the results of an examination of the COI policies of Canada’s ‘big 5′ banks, suggests areas of improvement, and ranks the 5 banks’ policies in terms of quality, completeness, and clarity.

Admission is free, but seating is limited, so please REGISTER.


Past Events

Chris MacDonald & Scott Gavura
“Complementary & Alternative Medicine: A Business Ethics Perspective”
January 28, 2015

Is it ethical to market complementary and alternative medicines? Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) are medical products and services outside the mainstream of medical practice. But they are not just medicines (or supposed medicines) offered and provided for the prevention and treatment of illness. They are also products and services – things offered for sale in the marketplace. Most discussion of the ethics of CAM has focused on bioethical issues – issues having to do with therapeutic value, and the relationship between patients and those purveyors of CAM. This presentation — by a philosopher and a pharmacist — aims instead to consider CAM from the perspective of commercial ethics. That is, we consider the ethics not of prescribing or administering CAM (activities most closely associated with health professionals) but the ethics of selling CAM.

See the webcast here.

(Chris MacDonald is Director of the Jim Pattison Ethical Leadership Program. Scott Gavura is a pharmacist, and author of the Science Based Pharmacy Blog.


Kristyn Scott 
Department of Human Resource Management and Organizational Behaviour,
Ted Rogers School of Management
“A cynical contagion: Employee and supervisor cynicism and workplace outcomes”
Feb 10, 2015
Room: TRS 3-129

Much like any virus, organizational cynicism can spread beyond the cynic alone. This research focused on the relationships between 204 employees and their supervisors and found that if either one expressed cynical workplace attitudes, this spread to the other. The spread of cynicism had a negative impact on a host of important organizational outcomes ranging from the quality of the relationship between the employee and supervisor, job satisfaction, commitment and ultimately, job performance. These results suggest that the documented increase in organizational cynicism might be the result of its viral-like effect on people in organizations.

See the webcast here.


Alex Wellington
Ryerson Department of Philosophy
“Yes Means Yes, or Does It?: Complexities of Consent for Women’s Reproductive and Sexual Labour”
Thursday March 12, 2015 
Room: TRS 3-129

Defenders of the moral justifiability of commercial surrogacy and the sex trade rely upon variants of market freedom perspectives to support their positions. A market freedom perspective typically rests upon the presumption of capacity to consent, on the part of competent adults, in normal circumstances. Feminist and other critics of commercial surrogacy and the sex trade, by contrast, seemingly attack the presumption of consent, particularly when they advocate for criminal prohibition of the activities of buyers, sellers, and intermediaries or facilitators of market transactions relating to sex and surrogacy. Criminal prohibitions are preferred by some to regulatory oversight. Ultimately, looking more deeply and broadly into the foundations of the contesting positions on commercial surrogacy and the sex trade leads to the realization that even those who are committed to gender equality and social justice should reconsider the advisability of undermining the core concept of consent, and the desirability of criminal prohibitions.



For more information, contact:

Chris MacDonald, Ph.D.

Past Events

Mary Gentile
“Giving Voice to Values: the ‘How’ of Business Ethics"
November 24, 2014

Dr. Gentile will share a ground-breaking new approach to preparing business managers and leaders for values-driven decision making. Drawing on both the actual experience of business practitioners as well as cutting edge research, GIVING VOICE TO VALUES (GVV) fills a long-standing and critical gap in our understanding of how to enable ethical practice. Rather than a focus on ethical analysis, GVV focuses on ethical implementation and asks the question: “What if I were going to act on my values? What would I say and do? How could I be most effective?”

GVV was launched by The Aspen Institute and Yale School of Management, and is now housed and funded by Babson College. Developed by Gentile, a veteran of Harvard Business School and pioneer in both ethics and diversity management curriculum, GVV is now being piloted in over 650 educational and executive settings. Giving Voice to Values holds the promise to transform the foundational assumptions upon which the teaching of business ethics is based, and importantly, to equip future business leaders to not only know what is right — but how to make it happen.


Daniel Weinstock, McGill University
“How (Not) to Deal With Corruption”
November 4, 2014

Corruption has been put in the spotlight again by the public hearings of the Charbonneau commission in Quebec, which has uncovered patterns of systematic corruption in the construction industry, and in the bidding process for public contracts. My talk will in anticipation of the Commission’s final recommendations argue against three tempting but potentially crippling mistakes that such a Commission might be led toward, that I will label “over-inclusion”, “personalization”, and “sham transparency”.


Waheed Hussain, University of Toronto
“Resisting the Ethical Consumer”
October 21, 2014

In 2012, American fast food chain Chik-fil-A was simultaneously the target of a boycott by supporters of gay rights and a buycott by supporters of family values. This is just one example of how ethical consumerism can draw companies into heated political controversies. In this paper, I develop my “proto-legislative” theory of ethical consumerism (Hussain 2012) to provide an account of the moral responsibilities of businesses. I argue that companies should generally be sensitive to the “price-quality” preferences of their customers. But companies should be sensitive to the “ethical” preferences of their customers only when these preferences have been formed through an adequately democratic form of consultation and engagement. The basic idea is that companies have a duty to direct political controversies away from the market and back into the political process.

How Much For That Kidney in the Window?

  • Peter Jaworski, Georgetown University
  • October 2, 2014

Most people think that there are moral limits to markets. At least one objection to commodification — call it symbolic — holds that buying and selling certain goods and services, like kidneys or sex, is wrong because of what market exchange communicates, or because it violates the meaning of certain goods, services, and relationships. But Peter thinks that this objection to markets fails. He thinks just about all moral objections to markets fail, and he’ll present some of his reasons for thinking so.

Peter Jarowski (Photo by Joshua Harrower)
Peter Jarowski (Photo by Joshua Harrower)

CSR in the Developing World: Understanding Responsibility

  • Garrett MacSweeney, York University
  • September 23, 2014

 Research on corporate social responsibility (CSR) has long focused on the responsibilities of business in North America and Europe. While the literature has done much to explore the idea of CSR in such stable environments, in the developing world the notion of responsibility is context dependent. In this presentation I explore the notion of responsibility in the developing world on two levels, role responsibility and causal responsibility, and present ways for understanding both within this context by advancing an understanding of CSR as including a notion of positive and negative duties.

The Ethical Challenges of Leadership

  • Joanne Ciulla, Coston Family Chair in Leadership and Ethics
  • Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond
  • January 23, 2014

This talk focuses on the question “Why is it difficult to be an ethical leader?” It will examine some of the distinctive problems that have always been a part of being a leader and exercising leadership.

Business Ethics and Greed as Portrayed in Hollywood Movies

  • Prof. Mark Schwartz
  • York University
  • January 31, 2014

What is greed? Is greed good or bad for society? How is greed any different from selfishness or self-interest? Was greed the main cause of many of the most significant corporate ethical scandals, such as Enron, WorldCom, as well as the recent global financial crisis? To discuss these questions, we will review business ethics and ‘greed’ as portrayed in various Hollywood movies including Quiz Show, Wall Street, Boiler Room, Monster’s Inc., Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and Margin Call.

Ethics of Innovation: 3D Printing and other 21st Century Manufacturing Technologies

  • Chris MacDonald, Professor & Director
  • Jim Pattison Ethical Leadership Program
  • Ted Rogers School of Management
  • February 13, 2014

Emerging technologies — including 3D printing, computer-controlled laser cutting, and mass customization — promise to change the face of modern manufacturing. This presentation will explore the social impacts likely to result from such technologies, as well as the way they are likely to alter the range of ‘hot button’ ethical issues that come to the fore.

The Psychological Limits of Cooperation and Competition: or, Everything I Need to Know about Business Ethics I Learned from my Father.

  • Abraham Singer
  • University of Toronto
  • March 11, 2014

One of the major difficulties involved in understanding the ethical dimensions of business organization and decision-making is that we often think of business and economics as inherently amoral, if not downright immoral. “It’s not personal, it’s business,” is the cliché often used to justify a course of action which might seem ethically dubious from a certain perspective. In this talk I aim to explain the ethical dimensions of business and the marketplace through a poignant, though crude, Jewish New York witticism. This helps us understand the differences between the moral dimensions of the market and the morality which exists within businesses, as well as the possibilities and problems in creating alternative workplace organizations and cultures.

John Isbister — “Ethics and Economics”

  • “Is it possible to have a just society?”
  • John Isbister, VP Faculty Affairs, Ryerson University
  • January 15, 2014

A definition of justice is “getting what you deserve.” That is a good working definition of criminal justice, but what about social justice? How do we get what we deserve within our social system? It is a subject that has puzzled thinkers at least since Aristotle, and the debates echo over the centuries. My contention is that the principles propounded by some of the great philosophers can help us in our thinking, but they are incapable of giving us clear, precise answers. There are too many plausible principles, some of which lead us in opposite directions. Is there a morally justified distribution of personal incomes in Canada? Can we justify the existence of poverty, at any level? Should the accident of citizenship have any bearing on ones well-being? Do animals have a right to justice and, if so, is it any different from the right to justice of human beings? The questions, and many like them, are fundamental, and the search for answers never-ending.

Andrew Crane — “The Business of Modern Slavery”

  • “The Business of Modern Slavery”
  • Andrew Crane, Schulich School of Business
  • November 26, 3pm – 4:30

Abstract: According to ILO estimates there are currently something like 12m people in conditions of modern slavery – forced into work through threat, violence or coercion, typically in appalling conditions, with little or no pay. This talk will explore what makes modern slavery a viable business model despite its moral repugnance and widespread illegality. Drawing from global research, including studies of forced labor in developed countries like Canada, Andrew Crane will show that it is only by understanding the contexts in which modern slavery can thrive, and the complex supply chains in which it emerges, that we can realistically hope to protect those most at risk.

Buzz Hargrove — “Ethics in Labour Relations: A View from the Trenches”"

  • “Ethics in Labour Relations: A View from the Trenches”
  • Buzz Hargrove, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Ryerson University (and Co-Director, Centre for Labour Management Relations)
  • November 20, 2:00 – 3:30

What ethical principles govern the real world of labour relations? How do honourable leaders maintain their integrity while negotiating with CEOs and politicians? Come hear this veteran leader of Canada’s labour movement talk about the ethical lessons learned in a career spent at the bargaining table.

Jeffery Smith — Corporate Involvement in Human Rights Abuse

  • “Corporate Involvement in Human Rights Abuse”
  • Jeffery Smith, DePauw University, Prindle Institute for Ethics & University of Redlands
  • November 8, 2013

Abstract: John Ruggie, the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations, has written a number of prominent reports that outline a comprehensive framework to help understand the role of transnational corporations in the violation and protection of human rights. Central to this framework is the idea that although human rights need to be protected by states, transnational corporations have obligations to respect human rights in their operations and should sometimes be part of broad-based institutional responses to remedy human rights violations after they have occurred. This presentation introduces and examines Ruggie’s tripartite framework–the so-called “protect, respect and remedy” framework–paying particular attention to the ways that transnational corporations can be morally complicit in the violation of human rights. It is argued that a clearer understanding of complicity and its dimensions will improve the application and implementation of Ruggie’s framework, especially as it relates to the roles that transnational corporations have in remedying human rights violations.

Jane Garthson — Board Decision-Making in Small Organizations

  • “Board Decision-Making in Small Organizations”
  • Jane Garthson, Garthson Leadership Centre
  • October 30, 2013

Abstract: Boards of directors are charged with making the highest level of decisions for their organizations. Ideally, they will make high quality, well-informed decisions that will best enable their organization to achieve its purpose. So surely organizations would all have good practices to help their directors make great decisions, right? Sadly, many don’t.

Ever left a board meeting and, before you even got out of the building, stopped and wondered, “What have we done?” Some explicit considerations of how the board prepares for, and makes, decisions could help avoid such situations at your organizations. It’s the ethical thing do to if you care about the best possible outcomes, resource use, oversight and much more. Your choices won’t always make everyone happy, but there’s a far better chance your decisions will be seen as fair, wise and respected.

Jane’s session will focus on what could be done in advance of the board meeting and then what could happen at board meetings to support wise decisions at the top. Bring your perspectives as directors or senior staff of associations, charities, small businesses and community groups or advisors to such organizations.

Alexei Marcoux — Adventures in the Market for Values

  • “Adventures in the Market for Values”
  • Alexei Marcoux, Loyola University Chicago, Quinlan School of Business
  • October 8, 2013

Abstract: Some commentators in the business ethics and CSR literatures cheer the emergence of consumers who choose trading partners based upon whether or not those trading partners share one’s ethical/political/religious/social values. I advance a virtue ethics argument against cultivating the disposition to view trade as an opportunity to punish those who don’t share one’s values. I argue that cultivating this disposition is individually imprudent and socially divisive. It is a failure of tolerance – the most important virtue for participants in a liberal social/political/economic order. I argue that the disposition in market participants that Wicksteed calls “nontuism” is tolerance in its commercial form.

Hamish van der Ven — “Big-Box Retail and the Environment: Why Some Firms Innovate and Others Stagnate”

  • “Big-Box Retail and the Environment: Why Some Firms Innovate and Others Stagnate”
  • Hamish van der Ven, University of Toronto
  • October 2, 2013

Abstract: Despite a considerable push by policy-makers to incentivize green business practices, take-up of environmental initiatives amongst North American retailers has been highly uneven. While some “big-box” retailers have launched ambitious environmental initiatives, others continue to conduct business as usual. This paper asks: why do some mega-retailers commit to ambitious environmental agendas while others in the same sector do not? And how can the answer to this question improve public policy? Using comparative case studies of four North American mega-retailers, I find that the socialization of senior executives through multi-stakeholder sustainability networks is the critical variable accounting for progressive environmental practices in some corporations and not others. This finding suggests that existing public policies that focus on making the business case for sustainability are based on incomplete assumptions about why companies “go green.”

Christa Wessel — Ethics: A view from the inside of a global company

  • “Ethics: A view from the inside of a global company”
  • Christa Wessel, Chief Human Resources and Legal Officer, McCain Foods Limited
  • April 3, 2013

Dominic Martin — Honouring the Poker Code of Ethics

  • “Honouring the Poker Code of Ethics Is Harder than You Think”
  • Dominic Martin, Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Toronto
  • March 19, 2013

A theory has been picking up momentum in business ethics which might be referred to as ‘the adversarial ethics for business.’ The theory builds on the idea that markets produce their beneficial outcomes when companies compete with each other. It follows that aggressively competitive behaviours in markets should generally be permitted, even though our common morality generally values cooperation. In this respect, the moral obligations of companies and executives share many similarities with the moral obligations of people other competitive spheres of life like sport, courts, politics or even games like poker. But an adversarial ethics for business is much more demanding that one might think on first sight. Just because competitive behaviours are permitted doesn’t mean that business ethics is permissive.

Matt Fullbrook: Executive Compensation in Canada

  • “Executive Compensation in Canada”
  • Matt Fullbrook, Manager, Clarkson Centre for Business Ethics and Board Effectiveness (Rotman School of Management)
  • March 7, 2013, 8am

Matt Fullbrook will discuss the latest research from the Clarkson Centre for Board Effectiveness, which shows that S&P/TSX 60 boards have successfully aligned CEO pay with share performance over the past 8 years.

Board Diversity: Where are the Women on Canada’s Corporate Boards

Mon., February 11, 2013


  • Eileen Mercier, Chair, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan
  • Patrice Merrin, Chairman of the Board, CML Healthcare
  • Janet McFarland, Business Reporter, Globe and Mail

As part of the 2013 Business Ethics Speakers Series, we are pleased to announce a panel discussion on board diversity focused especially on the relative lack of women on Canada's corporate boards.

Insider Trading: Does it Really Pay?

Thurs., January 31, 2013

Speaker: Georges Dessaulles, Chairman of the Canadian Centre for Ethics and Corporate Policy

As part of the 2013 Business Ethics Speakers Series, Georges Dessaulles -- Chairman of the Canadian Centre for Ethics and Corporate Policy, and former Compliance Director, RBC Banking -- will speak at the Ted Rogers School of Management on ethical and legal perspectives on insider trading.

This event is offered in collaboration with Ryerson's Capital Markets Group.

"Accountability in Public Institutions: the Role of Ombudsman in Local Government"

Tues., January 22, 2013

Speaker: Fiona Crean, Ombudsman, City of Toronto

As part of the 2013 Business Ethics Speakers Series, Fiona Crean -- Ombudsman for the City of Toronto -- will speak at the Ted Rogers School of Management on mechanisms of accountability for public institutions.

This event is offered in collaboration with the Ryerson Commerce and Government Association.

The Ethics of Risk Management: A Post-Crisis Perspective

Fri., Nov 9, 2012

Speaker: John Boatright

As part of the 2012 Business Ethics Speakers' Series, professor John Boatright* (Loyola University) will examine the ethics of risk management, with a special focus on the relevance of the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

*John Boatright is the author of both Ethics in Finance (2007) and Finance Ethics: Critical Issues in Theory and Practice (2010)

Ethical and Legal Aspects of Workplace Social Media

Tues., Nov 6, 2012

As part of the 2012 Business Ethics Speakers' Series at the Ted Rogers School of Management, and in collaboration with the Ethics Practitioners' Association of Canada, we are pleased to announce a panel discussion on the challenges posed by the use of social media in the workplace.

Our 3 panelists are:

  • Mark Crestohl, AVP, Global HR Regulatory Policies at TD Bank
  • Dan Michaluk, Partner, Hicks Morley
  • Avner Levin, Director, Privacy and Cyber Crime Institute, Ted Rogers School of Management

Corporate Social Responsibility and institutional theory: new perspectives on private governance

Fri., Oct 19, 2012

Speaker: Dirk Matten (in collaboration with the Ryerson CSR Institute)

As part of the 2012 Business Ethics Speakers' Series at the Ted Rogers School of Management, and in collaboration with the Ryerson CSR Institute, we are pleased to announce that Professor Dirk Matten, Hewlett-Packard Chair in Corporate Social Responsibility at the Schulich School of Buisness will be at Ryerson on October 19 to speak on the relevance of institutional theory to Corporate Social Responsibility.

Should business dictate the business of rule change in sport?

Fri., Sept 28, 2012

Speaker: Daniel Weinstock

In this inaugural talk in the 2012 Business Ethics Speakers' Series, McGill University philosopher Daniel Weinstock will examine the ethical dimensions of rule change in the world of professional sport.


Chris MacDonald, Ph.D.
Director, Ted Rogers Leadership Centre

Toronto Mayor John Tory...

was our keynote speaker for this TRLC event on March 16, 2016:
Working Together in the Public Interest: Public-Private Partnerships and City-Building

Global reach!

Our 2015 webcast continues to be a world-wide hit! Over 53,000 people world-wide have viewed “Complementary & Alternative Medicine: A Business Ethics Perspective” in its first 2 weeks online!


TRLC news:

Professor Chris MacDonald, Director of TRLC, has been elected as a faculty representative on Ryerson University's Board of Governors.

TRLC Post Doctoral Fellow Hasko von Kriegstein has been appointed Assistant Director of TRLC's Jim Pattison Ethical Ledership Program. Starting this summer, Hasko will now be an Assistant Professor in the Ted Rogers School of Management.

Global reach!

Our recent webcast is a world-wide hit! Over 42,000 people world-wide have viewed“Complementary & Alternative Medicine: A Business Ethics Perspective” in its first 2 weeks online!