About the Institute

The mission of the Institute for Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility is to support research and teaching at Saunders that focuses on the interdependent relationship between business and society. We raise awareness of the role of business as a member of society and the importance of ethics as an essential component of decision making. We achieve this through:

  • Offering advice on ethical issues
  • Assisting the integration of ethics into the business curriculum
  • Supporting and conducting research in the area of business ethics and corporate social responsibility
  • Providing a forum for debating issues regarding business and society
  • Offering support and education to the broader community

Rationalization and Escalation…a possible explanation for the VW fiasco

Volkswagen recently admitted that  millions of clean diesel cars sold worldwide contain software to fool regulators. In contrast to the GM safety scandal, however, where unclear standards and communications issues contributed to the production of unsafe vehicles, it will be pretty hard for VW to find a rationale for its use of technology that blatantly violated regulations. This is particularly difficult given VW’s high profile efforts to assert its “greenness” – and many laudable efforts to support these assertions.  When this type of event happens, the question always comes up:  How do people that, in all likelihood, are reasonable, ethical people, end up making such unethical decisions.

One possible answer can be that they are able to develop rationalizations for why these decisions are not unethical.  In a paper published in Journal of Business Ethics, we argue that these clearly faulty rationalizations don’t occur over night.  We propose that corruption in organizations often spreads through a process of overcompensation, where rationalization and action interact in a dynamic way. To give people a margin of error in defending unethical behavior, rationalizations are developed that that ‘over-shoot’ the actual corrupt deed.  This overshoot then provides an impetus for more serious forms of illegality. In other words, the over rationalizations push out the boundaries of what might be considered ethical, so when the next decision is made, the reference point for ethical decision making has moved.  This occurs in a cycle, eventually leading to decisions that to the common person would seem blatantly unethical.

To avoid this escalation, you need an organization that questions these types of rationalizations early on.  This requires a strong culture, and organizational mechanisms to double check ethically questionable decisions.

See the entire paper at: http://scholarworks.rit.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1600&context=article


DR. ANDREW J. HOFFMAN to speak on culture and climate change Oct. 9th


Holcim (Us) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise

University Of Michigan

“How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate”

Friday, October 9, 2015, 2:00 PM — 3:00 PM

Webb Auditorium, Booth Hall, Building 7A, Room 1350

Book Signing to Follow

Supported by

RIT Saunders College of Business,

RIT College of Liberal Arts, Department of Public Policy


Institute for Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility


Please contact Dr. Sandra Rothenberg with any questions at

Interpreters provided upon request subject to availability. Please make your request as soon as possible by going to the following website: Access.rit.edu

Congratulations to SCB Student Hassan Ali

Congratulations to Hassan Ali, this year’s recipient of the Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation student scholarship. Hassan is a student in the B.S/M.B.A program in Accounting at the Saunders College of Business. His essay impressed the judges with its thoughtful analysis of personal ethics dilemmas he has faced in the work environment. More information on the scholarship can be found at the RABEF website.  You can also see past Saunders  winners there as well.

Hassan Ali

Sam E. Antar to discuss white-collar crime April 1

Former Crazy Eddie’s CFO recounts his criminal past during Saunders College event

March 25, 2015
by Marcia Morphy
Follow Marcia Morphy on Twitter
Follow RITNEWS on Twitter


The mastermind of one of the largest white-collar securities frauds of all time, reformed convicted felon Sam E. Antar, will visit Rochester Institute of Technology to discuss the dangers of fraud, how thieves prey upon the weaknesses of others, and to answer some really tough questions.

The former Crazy Eddie’s Chief Financial Officer will offer some straight talk on his life as an economic predator from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 1, in the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences auditorium. Free and open to the public, the event is sponsored by Saunders College of Business and The Next Generation of Accountants (NGA) accounting club.

During the 1980s, Crazy Eddie Antar was coined by U.S. Attorney Michael Chertoff as “The Darth Vader of Capitalism.” During his public appearances, Antar offers no self-apologies, self-pity or self-promotion. But he does offer insight into the heart of combating white-collar fraud.

“As a criminal, I used every tool I knew to gain my objectives,” Antar said. “I took advantage of people’s weaknesses, niceties, etc., in any way I could. I could be any person I had to be for any situation. I hope by publicly exposing my own past criminal misdeeds that others will use them as an example of how to avoid future frauds.”

Parking for the Sam Antar event is available in J Lot. For more information, email nga@saunders.rit.edu or contact Professor Roberta Klein, adviser of Saunders College NGA club, at 585-475-6838, or rklein@saunders.rit.edu.

Congratulations to Tamara Osipov

Congratulations to Saunders College of Business student Tamara Osipov for being this year’s recipient of the Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation Scholarship. As part of her application, she wrote a thoughtful essay on ethics. More information on the scholarship can be found at the RABEF website.  You can also see past Saunders  winners there as well.

RIT Alum Heads Effort to get her B-Corp Named to ‘Best for the Environment’ List

Ann Sherman, a RIT alum who took the sustainable management concentration at the Saunders College of Business, recently forwarded me this great news!  Ann is Staach’s Director of Sustainability and spearheaded the effort.  Great news Ann!


Staach Named to ‘Best for the Environment’ List

Staach is among 84 Businesses recognized for their commitment to addressing environmental challenges.

April 22, 2014: Rochester NY

The nonprofit B Lab has released their third annual ‘B Corp Best for the Environment’ list and Rochester, NY based furniture manufacturer Staach Inc was recognized for creating the most positive environmental impact. The list honors 84 businesses with an environmental impact score in the top 10% of all Certified B Corporations. Scores are determined using the B Impact Assessment, a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation of a company’s influence on its workers, community, and the environment. Honorees include micro, small, and mid-sized businesses.

Other businesses recognized include outdoor retailers Patagonia and GoLite, home and personal care companies Method and Seventh Generation, employee-owned craft brewery New Belgium Brewery and the 20 year old waste reduction and management company, WasteZero.

“Our environmental practices are the foundation of our business and it’s wonderful to be recognized for our ongoing efforts to operate in a responsible manner. We are grateful to our customers who have recognized the value in our products, and our network of partners who have contributed to our success. We hope that this acknowledgment inspires others to engage in the conversation and leads to more support as we assist one another in reducing our impacts.”  -Anne Sherman, Staach Director of Sustainability

Founded in 2006 with a commitment to sustainable processes and local sourcing, Staach utilizes a team of passionate designers and craftspeople to create inspiring contemporary furnishings and environments. All of their products are FSC Certified and made with water-based finishes, using energy efficient methods and regional materials.

Staach maintains a strong commitment to customer service and collaboration between and services a range of clients, from local residences to International restaurant chains. Through their efforts, Staach aims to become industry leaders while generating pride for Made in the USA, supporting the local community, and creating meaningful experiences for our customers and partners.

B Lab is a nonprofit organization that serves a global movement to redefine success in business so that all companies compete not only to be the best in the world, but the best for the world.

By building a community of Certified B Corporations, they aim to make it easier for all of us to tell the difference between “good companies” and good marketing. For more information, visit www.bcorporation.net.

RIT Team wins Honorable Mention in EPA Program

EPA’s P3 – People, Prosperity, and the Planet—is a unique college competition for designing solutions for a sustainable future.This past weekend a team from RIT presented their idea: Development of an Improved Arborloo to Promote Sanitation in Rural Environments.  The Rochester Institute of Technology’s Waste team designed a light-weight toilet for rural areas of developing countries. Called the Arborloo, this toilet is a simple pit latrine that sits over a shallow pit that safely holds human waste. When the pit is full, the Arborloo is moved to a new location, the pit is covered with dirt, and fruit trees or vegetable gardens are planted in the nutrient rich soil. While most Arborloos are built as do-it-yourself projects by homeowners, the goal of this project is to develop the Arborloo into a low-cost commercial product to encourage widespread distribution. The team, seen below – took home an honorable mention.  Two Saunders MBA students with concentrations in Sustainable Management -  Jonathan Morris-Eppolito and Airin O’ Connor (seen in the pictures wearing Saunders’ hats) were part of this interdisciplinary team. Many thanks to Sarah Brownell for leading this team and integrating Jon and Airin into the team.

RIT's Team at the EPA's P3 Competition

Saunders Students Jon Morris-Eppolito and Airin O-Connor with the Prototype

MBA Students Use Business Knowledge to Help with Sanitation in Haiti

From January 4th, 2014 to January 15th, 2014, Jon Eppolito and Airin O’Connor, two RIT MBA students concentrating in Sustainable Management, traveled to Haiti in order to gather market data and research to assist RIT’s Sustainable Engineering students in design of affordable sanitation solutions for the rural regions of Haiti. Below is their trip report:


While in Haiti, we conducted several focus groups.  The goal of the focus groups was to determine household sizes and purchasing capabilities based on recent buying behavior.  We also asked several design preference questions for the Arborloo, the name for the model of waterless toilets being developed by the sustainable engineering students.

The focus groups spanned the northern coast of Haiti in townships surrounding the city of Cap-Haitian, which acts as the hub for the entire northern portion of the country.  We tried to limit the attendance of the groups to 20 individuals as to stimulate more productive conversation.  This was an effective strategy as a trend developed that the smaller the group the more helpful the session was.

Our biggest challenge was figuring out how to get people to answer the questions honestly, rather than telling us what we wanted to hear.  We revised our questions after each group when we figured out what worked and what didn’t.  There has been significant education in the importance of proper sanitation and the consequences of not disposing of waste properly, however many people lack the means to create a better option.  People are interested in many technology improvements to their lives such as with solar power or electronic communication (cell phones, etc.).  People consider toilets a necessity but also have many things they need in their houses and toilets are often purchased last.  Many seemed interested in having customizable options as well as payment plans or a credit system to purchase the toilet with.

Additional conversations with sanitation professionals stressed the importance of education and we believe this will have to be incorporated in any marketing campaign for a future product.  The communities that had the most education about how to properly use, maintain, and repair toilets found them to be the most valuable.

We also evaluated our options for product distribution.  Many organizations, such as the peasant organizations, are interested in partnering with our group to provide a product to their larger communities. Infrastructure and politics are on-going considerations that impact the reach this product can have.

Currently, we have joined the student incubator team for the Arborloo; working with our coach and professors we will try to extract more value out of our data and use this information to create an effective product not only for Haiti but potentially many developing countries.  The eventual goal is to create a business model that we can step away from and allow Haitian communities to manage on their own accord in order to stimulate local commerce.  We both feel that our coursework from marketing and sustainable management courses helped significantly in how to approach the issue and further develop the business model.

Jon Eppolito and Airin O’Connor

Erin (in green shirt) and Jon (in bright blue shirt) help run a market focus group.

Saunders Students Get a Visit from Congressman Dan Maffei

Yesterday, Saunders Students were visited by Congressman Dan Maffei. He gave us a great inside glimpse of the policy making process and the skills needed for those engaged in this process.

Congressman Dan Maffei talking to students and the E. Philip Saunders College of Business

Holiday Ticket Gift

Question to Ask the Prof: I asked around for sports tickets right before the holidays, willing to pay for them to give as a gift. None came through and as a result, I bought tickets to an away game for the person as they were the only reasonably priced alternative. Now a supplier has sent me free tickets, to a home game, as he was away when I asked and just got the email. Should I return the tickets or use them myself?

A (Professor Barbato): You should explain to the supplier that your friend no longer needs the tickets and give him the option of reclaiming them, selling them to you, or giving them to you.