Former PG&E CIO Discusses Business Ethics
November 8, 2006 9:30 AM
Roger Gray spoke at SF State’s College of Business’s annual Business Ethics Week on Wednesday, and showed students how they can’t be taught ethics.
“Business ethics aren’t really different than moral ethics,” Gray said.
Gray, who worked for PG&E for nineteen years as their CIO, decided to call it quits after not agreeing with the moral fabric of the company. He is now COO of IP Networks in San Francisco.
President Robert Corrigan gave the opening remarks at the event, which started at 5 p.m. in the Science building, room 101.
“Most of the folks who have screwed up out there have been college educated,” said Corrigan. “Because of this we need to ask, what is the role of the University in the topic of ethics?”
After Corrigan’s introduction, Gray laid out the basis for his lecture topic, which was based on the idea that business ethics is no different than any other type of ethics.
“Should we really develop ethical standards for our business life,” said Gray, “that are separate from family life, citizen life, academic life, or religious life?”
Gray said that much of business is about the means and the ends, meaning what matters is the outcome, and how you get there. But Gray said that in modern day business the means aren’t justifying the ends.
Adam Smith’s concept of the invisible hand also played a major role in Gray’s lecture. Gray said he believes very much in the free-market and thinks that Smith was on to something, yet his philosophy has been greatly misinterpreted.
“The invisible hand by Adam Smith and self-interest were not carte-blanche to selfishness, greed and unchecked power under the guise of the free markets,” Gray said.
Gray said also thinks honesty is the best policy. After receiving a question from the audience about white lies, Gray further explained the limitations of his honesty policy.
“I think we should be honest,” said Gray. “But not brutally honest. With regards to white lies, telling the truth and not lying are two very different things. We should always be honest, but we don’t need to hurt someone doing it.”
Leaders are able to change the way that companies and their employees look at and regard ethics codes, Gary said near the end of his presentation.
“Ethics is getting worse,” he said. “It’s not just moral ethics, it’s religious scandals and political scandals. As leaders your standards will set the tone for your life and the people who work under you. It will also reflect on to your colleagues.”
Gray’s final advice to students was to save as much money as they can, so that they can be able to pick and chose an ethical company to work for without having to worry about money clouding their decision.
Bill Perttula, one of the organizers of Business Ethics week, and a professor of marketing and internet marketing, was one of about thirty people present at the lecture.
“I strongly agree with his point that there is not specialized ethics,” said Perttula. “We can’t teach our students ethics now when they’re adults. It starts with their parent’s way before they get to us. What we should do is start giving guidelines for them to be able to answer their own ethical questions.”
Bruce Paton, Professor of Management in the College of Business, was also in attendance.
“He [Gray] describes himself as cynical, but his conduct in business is otherwise,” Paton said. “He makes a good case for the possibility of being an ethical business person.”
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