Global Ethics Day 2020

21 October 2020

Tags: Speak Up, Communication & Engagement, Code of Ethics

David Grayson, chair of the Institute of Business Ethics, reflects on the Seventh, annual Global Ethics Day, promoted by the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, based in New York.

I organised my first campaign when I was eight (a fundraiser for Cancer research) and I guess I have been a campaigner ever since! So, my first reaction when I heard about the Global Ethics Day was, what a great initiative! And my second reaction, as a campaigner, was, how can it become more widely known and observed, around the world?

We all need ethics: our North Star of right and wrong and a reasoning process to help us resolve the ethical dilemmas that we face in our work and personal lives. Some of us, have a religious faith to help us. Some of us may draw on the teaching of one of the great philosophical traditions. Some may benefit from the ethical guidance of our professional body. Many of us will have an employer with a Code of Ethics – and if it is a good employer, there won’t just be a Code but regular training and communications about the Code, leaders championing and modelling the Code, and a robust Speak Up culture to catch unethical conduct in the bud.

Nevertheless, external reminders like Global Ethics Day, can be a helpful reminder. So, in campaigner mode, let’s look ahead to the tenth annual Global Ethics Day which, by my calculation, will be October 19th 2023.

Three years ahead, is far enough away to develop networks, build further relationships, find some sponsorship; but not so far into the future, that work can be delayed.

We might see organisations like the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), the Academy for Business in Society (ABIS), the UN’s Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative, the Global Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI) and indeed the IBE all working together with the major business school international accreditation boards to encourage business schools to host master-classes, guest speakers, ethical dilemmas’ workshops to mark Ethics Day on October 19th 2023. The curriculum developed by Mary Gentile: Giving Voice to Values would be one excellent starting point. Perhaps business schools could partner up with schools in other parts of the world to explore some of the practical challenges of leading ethically across cultures. Perhaps some of the annual competitions for the best business school teaching cases, could include an extra category in 2021 and 2022 to encourage up to date teaching cases around cross-cultural ethical dilemmas?

Similarly, there could be an opportunity for Corporate Responsibility Coalitions across the world like CSR Europe, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) to host blogs, webinars, training programmes for member companies on October 19th 2023. The same for business groups like the International Chamber of Commerce.

Global Ethics Day is already involving some of the accounting bodies in different parts of the world. How about if their umbrella bodies internationally took up the Global Ethics Day. Which traditional and social media might become active media partners?

I would hope that by the tenth annual Global Ethics Day in 2023, the IBE and others have been able to demonstrate how an ethical lens absolutely permeates through the ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) investment frameworks which are becoming increasingly popular for investors and for the organisations they are investing in.

I have always thought that an important part of successful campaigning includes what the American management guru Tom Peters calls, “creative swiping” or “stealing with pride” (of course doing it ethically and with attribution!).

#PurpleLightUp is a global movement that celebrates and draws attention to the economic contribution of the 386 million disabled employees around the world. It is an initiative led by the consultancy: PurpleSpace.  It links to the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) held annually on 3rd December.

Since 2017, #PurpleLightUp has been driving momentum for disability inclusion across hundreds of organisations, reaching thousands of employees in different ways. This includes lighting up iconic buildings purple, holding events, developing workplace policies for disabled employees and sparking conversations about disability inclusion worldwide.

In 2020, #PurpleLightUp will be bigger than ever before, through a 24-hour Global Broadcast with webinars, interviews, panel discussions and more.

My challenge back to the Carnegie Council is: how by 2023 can we help you to produce something equivalent to #PurpleLightUp for Global Ethics Day? An initiative bringing together a number of organisations across the globe, which champion ethical behaviour? This could have the very valuable effect of helping to bring ethics organisations together more.


Professor David Grayson CBE
Professor David Grayson CBE


David is Emeritus Professor of Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield School of Management. From 2007-2017, he was director of the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility and Professor of Corporate Responsibility.

David became Chair of the Trustees Board on 01 April 2019.

He joined Cranfield in April 2007, after a thirty year career as a social entrepreneur and campaigner for responsible business, diversity, and small business development. This included founding Project North East which has now worked in nearly 60 countries around the world; being the founding CEO of the Prince's Youth Business Trust and serving as a managing-director of Business in the Community.

David has an Honorary Doctorate of Law from London South Bank University and was a visiting Senior Fellow at the CSR Initiative of the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard (2005-10).

He has served on various charity and public sector boards over the past 30 years. These have included the boards of the National Co-operative Development Agency, The Prince of Wales' Innovation Trust and the Strategic Rail Authority. He chaired the National Disability Council and the Business Link Accreditation Board; in each case appointed by the Major Government and re-appointed by the Blair administration.

He is currently chairman of the national charity Carers UK championing the role of 6.5million Britons caring for a loved one. He is a former chairman of one of the UK's larger social enterprises and largest eldercare providers, Housing & Care 21 during which the organisation made corporate history by becoming the first-ever not-for-profit successfully to acquire a publicly quoted group of companies. David received an OBE for services to industry in 1994 and a CBE for services to disability in 1999.

David has written a number of books on responsible business and corporate sustainability including most recently: ‘All in - The Future of Business Leadership’ with Chris Coulter and Mark Lee. He is part of the faculty of the Forward Institute and of the Circle of Advisers for Business Fights Poverty

The Guardian has named David as one of ten top global tweeters on sustainable leadership alongside Al Gore, Tim Cook - CEO of Apple, and Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg

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