Are corporations inherently evil? Visiting professor Josef Wieland sheds light on ethics and corporate behavior


Above: Josef Wieland delivering his speech on transcultural norms of good corporate behavior.

By Kaidi Ilves

Fairleigh Dickinson University recently hosted a guest lecture by Josef Wieland, a professor from Zeppelin University in Friedrichsafen, Germany (with whom FDU holds a global education partnership).

Wieland, an expert in institutional economics, organizational governance, integrity management and transcultural leadership, discussed the norms and regulations affecting behavior in corporations in the twenty first century.

Among his talking points were the United Nations’ Global Compact principles, which outline the standards of corporate behavior in terms of human rights, labor, the environment, and anti-corruption. The goal being to embed markets and societies with universal principles and values for the benefit of all.

wieland lecture

“This is the first time in history that businesses are asked to actively support the efforts of guaranteeing human rights,” said Wieland.

He elaborated, saying no entity exists in a vacuum, and it is the shared responsibility of nations and organizations alike to ensure a sustainable future for all. Companies are now not only mandated by laws and regulations to ensure ethical and sustainable practices throughout their value chain, but are also feeling the pressure from society to continually do the right thing and ensure that their partners do the same.

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The UN Human Rights Council states that, “Transnational corporations and other business enterprises have a responsibility to respect human rights,” and according to Wieland, today’s major corporations are responsible for every link in their supply chain, and can be penalized for unethical behavior within their suppliers’ factories or networks as well. It is in the best interest of companies to apply these norms of good corporate behavior and do their part in bettering the world.

wieland with wife and hosts

From left: Hosts Vice Provost of International Education Jason Scorza and SCB Associate Dean Ethné Swartz with Josef Wieland, and Wieland's wife Geraldine Kortmann.

Wieland is the director of the Zeppelin Leadership Excellence Institute. He is the founder and president of Forum Compliance & Integrity, chairman of the German Network of Business Ethics, and founder of the Business Council on Values Management. He has been awarded the Max Weber Prize for Business Ethics of the BDI (Association of German Entrepreneurs) and the State Research Award Baden-Wuerttemberg.