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

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.

It’s a Gas

Question to Ask the Prof: My car was damaged and the insurance company agreed to pay for the rental of a car while mine was being fixed. When I arrived there were no rental cars available, even though I had a confirmed reservation. I waited 30 minutes for my car, but it was a gas guzzling pickup truck instead of the sedan that I was promised. I told the agent I was not satisfied with the service or the truck, and she told me that I could return the truck with an empty tank of gas. That seemed fair and I felt more satisfied, but now I realize that I will be doing very little driving during this time, and I will probably return the truck with an almost full tank of gas. I could use the truck for a trip that my wife and I will be taking, but I’d rather use her fuel efficient car. Would it be unethical for me to siphon the gas into my wife’s car?


A (Professor Palanski): One relevant question is: what are you actually buying when you buy a tank of gas? Gas really does not have much value in and of itself – instead its value is comprised of the ability to operate a vehicle for a certain amount of time and distance.  A good-faith understanding of the rental car representative’s offer was to prevent you from suffering any undue financial hardship because you had to drive a gas guzzler instead of a more fuel-efficient car.  In effect, s/he was not giving you a tank of gas, but instead saving you from having to pay more than you normally would for your gas.

Changing the Rules Mid Bid

Question to Ask the Prof: I work for a medium sized company that tells it’s employees that ethics and fair treatment of others are core values. Recently the company has been encouraging project managers to change the typical way projects are bid out. Under the new scenario a project is put out for bid. Once the bids are received and bidding is closed, the project leader is encouraged to go back to some of the bidders (including the lowest bidder) and try to get new lower bids by using phrases like, “Your bid was very close to bidder x, do you think you can do any better?” This just feels wrong to me. I thought bids were meant to be final offers by bidders and that each bidder should not have an indication of competitive bids. Am I way off base here? Thanks in advance.

A (Professor Barbato): Fairness is an ethical principle, so a company should treat bidders fairly.  If the bidders have a reasonable expectation that the company will contract with the low bidder, then it is not fair to squeeze the bidder further after the bidder reveals how low he is willing to go.  This is not dealing in good faith.

Save the Date – David Cay Johnston Oct 3rd

The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use “Plain English” to Rob You Blind

David Cay Johnston

Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, an IRE Medal and the George Polk Award

October 3rd at 4pm-5pm, book signing to follow

Golisano Hall, Building 70, Room 1400



Event Cosponsored by the Institute for Business Ethics and Corporate Responsibility and Clarence B. Sheffield, Jr., the Eugene H. Fram Chair in Applied Critical Thinking

Unethical Tutor?

Question to Ask the Prof: Hello, I have a complex question so please bear with me. I am in a mentor-student relationship with an established individual in my industry. We have private tutoring sessions, for which I pay him (this is not uncommon in my field.) I have made vast improvements in my work in this field, in which my tutor’s support has been invaluable. Recently my tutor asked if I wanted to help out on a project with an ex-student of his, a person who I assumed was in a similar position to mine. I said yes, and began to help this person. After I’d done about half the work, my tutor suggested we meet together to discuss the results and it was then I found out my tutor and his student have a professional relationship and that this project would benefit them both financially. I felt betrayed but couldn’t object due to the high position of my tutor (it could potentially affect my young career). The tutor encouraged me to get help with my own project from his ex-student so the arrangement would be “mutually beneficial” but my project is in the beginning stages and has no professional prospects so it isn’t beneficial in the same way. Did my tutor cross an ethical line despite offering a “work exchange” between his ex-student and myself?


Answer (Professor Barbato): This is pretty vague, and without more specifics and details it’s hard to know if the tutor crossed a line, stepped on a line or toed a line.  Since you learned about the arrangement in a meeting with all concerned, it doesn’t look like anyone is trying to hide anything.  That’s a good sign.  I’m more troubled that you feel you can’t object, because you feel the tutor might retaliate.  That’s not a good sign.