Philosophy professors at the University of Reading are providing thought leadership on what businesses owe the societies they serve, shaping ethical business practice and regulation at local and national levels.

You only need to look as far as the 2008 financial crash to see the effects that bad ethical practices in business can have on ordinary people.

Philosophical reflection is needed on the relationship between businesses and the societies they serve, in order to influence businesses’ attitudes and make them aware of the ethical dimensions of their behaviour, argue Professors Emma Borg and Brad Hooker.

The pair’s rigorous research and thought leadership for a local social enterprise, Ethical Reading, has explored what private sector organisations owe to society. This work has made deep-rooted changes to business thinking and practice, raising ethical standards across the Reading Borough area – for example, co-creating an Ethical Recruitment Charter to help job candidates across Reading to be treated with core ethical values.

Starting conversations and broadening thinking through webinars and public lectures, Borg and Hooker have helped the public and business regulators to better understand how philosophical ideas of fairness and social purpose can shape better business practices, with Reading as a starting point.

Thanks to this work, they are now in demand at a national level, too. Between them, Borg and Hooker have given talks and provided briefings and evidence for the Institute of Business Ethics conference, the Banking Standards Board, the Liberal Democrat party, and the EU Sustainable Corporate Governance Initiative, among others. Borg also serves as an Independent Advisor on the Professional Standards Committee of HMRC, bringing forward ideas for reshaping state and business relations at a government level.

Find out more

The purpose of business and the social licence to operate (blog, Ethical Reading, April 2021)

Business as usual post-pandemic? Reshaping relations between the state and the private sector in light of COVID-19 (blog, April 2020)

Doing business better: can we create a more ethical Reading? (blog, July 2019)

Launch of Ethical Reading’s Code of Ethics (YouTube video, 1m58 secs, June 2019)

View the full impact case study on the REF 2021 website: Philosophy and fair business: using ethical understanding to create change in Reading and beyond