January Meeting: Peace Through Commerce…Can You Do Well by Doing Good? A Global Perspective on Corporate Social Responsibility

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum will host a luncheon examining global corporate social responsibility and other topics on Monday, January 9 at Aquinas College.

This month’s featured speaker is Oliver Williams, Associate Professor of Management at the University of Notre Dame and Director of the Center for Ethics and Religious Values in Business in the Mendoza College of Business. He is a member of the three-person Board of Directors at the United Nations Global Compact Foundation. He will be joined on the agenda by Steelcase Environmental Engineer Betsy Hernandez, who will speak on the company’s environmental performance and waste reduction efforts.

This month’s meeting sponsored by Creative Dining Services and Steelcase.

Steelcase was awarded the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum Champion Award earlier this year as local organization with a legacy of sustainable business leadership that has helped define our region as a center of sustainability expertise and accomplishment. Since 2010, it has successfully reduced emissions by 75%, water use by 9% and waste output by 44%.


Williams will speak on the UN Global Compact, corporate social responsibility, and principles for responsible management education, as well as recent developments that are making religion more relevant in business ethics, such as Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on climate change.

Over recent decades, escalating social and environmental concerns have prompted increasingly urgent calls for corporations to confirm their commitment to go beyond self-interest and to actively support solutions to our global challenges: climate change, ecological destruction, economic instability and the plight of the world’s poor.

Prompted by multinational businesses’ control over huge aggregates of money, management skills and power, scholars and activists are increasingly emphasising the moral obligatwilliams_oliver_webions of these corporations to make positive contributions to the ecological health of the planet and the alleviation of poverty. This major change in the social contract with business, demands that corporations reimagine their fundamental purpose, moving beyond the myopic and outdated view that their primary function is to deliver increasing financial returns for shareholders.

“How is it that the secular United Nations and the religious Vatican have a common vision for business?” said Williams. “At its root, this common vision for business flows from a common vision for society. These are attempts to persuade the wider community that the times demand more of business, that social expectations should be broadened and the social license to operate should be more demanding.”

Williams specializes in the areas of business ethics, corporate governance, and Catholic social teaching. He is the editor or author of 22 books as well as numerous articles on business ethics. A former Naval Officer, he earned his doctorate from Vanderbilt University and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Notre Dame. He is a Catholic priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross and served as Associate Provost for the university from 1987 to 1994.

In 2006, he was appointed a member of the three-person Board of Directors at the United Nations Global Compact Foundation. The United Nations Global Compact is the world’s largest voluntary corporate citizenship initiative with over 8,000 businesses around the world as members.

Cost for the event is $15 for members in advance, $20 at the door ($20 and $25 for non-members).

Learn more and register here.