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Fr. Philip Larrey, Fr. Ezra Sullivan, Letty Garcia, and Michael Useem Deliver School of Business Ethics Panel at Humanity 2.0

Fr. Philip Larrey, Fr. Ezra Sullivan, Letty Garcia, and Michael Useem Deliver School of Business Ethics Panel at Humanity 2.0

Humanity 2.0 School of Business Ethics was delivered by Fr. Philip Larrey, Fr. Ezra Sullivan, Letty Garcia and Prof. Michael Useem at Humanity 2.0 (Vatican City)


  • Vatican manages 26% of healthcare facilities globally
  • Between 2011-2013, the number of companies in US providing ethics training rose from 74% to 81%
  • 67% of companies in US include ethical conduct as a performance measure in employee evaluations


INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS: Fr. Ezra Sullivan, Director of Project Vision at Humanity 2.0, Fr. Philip Larrey, Chairman of Humanity 2.0, Letty Garcia, Associate Director Leadership Initiative at Harvard Business School and Prof. Michael Useem, Director of Center for Leadership & Change Management at the Wharton School

Rev. Philip Larrey – Chairman, Humanity 2.0: 00:00

The KPMG director in Italy is a good friend with Carlo and so he sent me their code of conduct and it’s about 16 pages long and it is amazing. It is amazing. And I said to him, I underwrite everything that you say in this code of conduct. It’s beautiful. Look at this. Our values, we lead by example. We work together above all, we act with integrity and it goes on and on and on. And these are beautiful words. One of my parishioners is a middle management executive and KPMG here in Rome. And one day she came to me in tears and she says, father, they don’t follow any of this.

Rev. Philip Larrey – Chairman, Humanity 2.0: 00:44

The problem is not writing a code of conduct. The problem is living it. And that’s what we want to do at the school of business ethics. We want to create an environment so that people want to act in an ethical way. Who are we? The school of business ethics is an independent institution of Humanity. 2.0 operating in partnership with leading centers for philosophical, ethical, and business leadership. Why us? We have to ask ourselves and she’s very good from Harvard business school. Why us? Why? Why would we ascend people from her company to one of our seminars? First of all, we have experts. The Catholic church has been studying the human condition for 2000 years. We know what we’re talking about. All of you here at father Ezra, well just imagine a hundred of father Ezras. Those are the kinds of people that we want to reach out to who understand the human condition and who knows what is right and what is wrong. We want to incentivize, we want to give the people a reason to act morally. It can’t just be legalistic, although this is a little bit philosophical. What we’re actually doing with project vision is trying to understand what kind of ethical system we want. For example, legalism where you create a rule and everybody has to follow that rule. It doesn’t work. Father Ezra, his studio, he studying virtue or value motivated ethics and I think that that’s going to go further.

Rev. Philip Larrey – Chairman, Humanity 2.0: 02:32

A couple of years ago, just as a trial, I put a sign on my office, and it said do not enter and I went into my office. I wanted to see what happened, big side do not enter, and I left the door unlocked. How many people do you think opened the door? At least 10 I had. And so they’d open the door and look in a, so it says do not enter. Oh, I’m sorry. If I just something about the rule that you want to break it. Do not enter. I’ve got to enter, I’ve got to at least see what’s in there. So rule-based ethics may not be the best way in order to provide an ethical situation, ethical system or ethical context, context reasoning, logical thinking skills. We’re not a rocket scientist, but we do know and we have a long tradition of what it means to think critically and what are the logical thinking skills that people need in order for them to understand that acting this way is in everybody’s interest.

Rev. Philip Larrey – Chairman, Humanity 2.0: 03:43

Acting in an ethical way is in everybody’s interest. Trust. We stay in our lanes. We’re collaborating with the Pontifical University global network primarily through the Pontifical Lateran University and the Pontifical university of st Thomas. But again, we have we’re opening up to, to the Holy cross. We had father Bob gall here today who’s in charge of the school of church management in the Santa Croce. We have father Giuseppe who is a theologian also there. The Pontifical University global system is very, very effective and we are tapping into that, but we’re not pretending we know about business. So that’s why we have Letty. That’s why we have Lynn pain. That’s why we have Mike Useem from Wharton because they represent the best business schools in the world. And so I think it’s a win win situation. We offer them the 2000-year rich tradition of Catholic education, especially in ethics. And they offer us the best that the business world has to offer in terms of training. I think people will come to us because we have credibility. There’s third party validation and support. People farm out different problems in their company like accounting or legal. Why should ethics not be one of those also? Oh, who can we go to when we have an ethical quandary where we’re working on a new blockchain technology or nanotechnology or artificial intelligence? Let’s run this through someone who knows about the ethical implications. That’s what we’re here for. Our mission is to provide all businesses with the education and expertise required to operate ethically. Now, how are we going to do this? We’ll provide executive level education in the form of seminars and also for courses. Obviously this will have, this will grow in the coming years. Diplomas and certificates will be issued.

Rev. Philip Larrey – Chairman, Humanity 2.0: 05:46

Eda told me that most business executives don’t have time to get a master’s degree or even a full semester, but what we’re going to do is provide intense seminars at different levels for people so that they can get an update in terms of the ethical dimension of business. The school worked with businesses and industries to co-develop ethical toolkits and programming in order to provide practical means for employers and employees to avoid ethical catastrophes. We’ll also offer the possibility of consultation appealing to a third party opinion and guidance on particular ethical dilemmas that they may face. The school continue to see work to evaluate trends in business and economics, contribute insight and offer guidance to ensure they remain dedicated to the service of the common good. What is our approach? Logic. The school’s approach will be to teach philosophical reasoning and ethical discernment techniques utilizing a case study methodology, which of course has become famous through Harvard business school.

Rev. Philip Larrey – Chairman, Humanity 2.0: 06:55

The school’s intention is to elevate human thinking and advance the common good through promoting better business. This is not an initiative for evangelization, but one rooted in universal ethical principles. Now, we can’t avoid the fact that this is a Catholic institution. We’re in Rome, we’re in partnership with the Vatican, but it is completely areligious. We’re not talking about religion. Father Ezra mentioned this earlier, we’re not trying to persuade people in terms of their religious beliefs. We’re trying to get at universal ethical principles that can be applied in the business world. The school will be open to the intellectual contributions of all people, regardless of religious beliefs or any other discriminating factor. The school of business ethics is a Humanity 2.0 institution that will be headquartered in Rome and led by the Pontifical University of St. Thomas, the Angelicum and the Pontifical Lateran university. We will draw from a multipolar, the multidisciplinary and diverse group of experts from around the globe to fulfill our educational and consultative commitments.

Rev. Philip Larrey – Chairman, Humanity 2.0: 08:05

We are delighted to be collaborating in development of the pilot curriculum with world-class partners. In terms of our timeline, our funding of course is something sensitive and we always need money but we have people who are generous and are willing to help in terms of our timeline. We want to organize a pilot seminar in November, which looks good. And then in September of 2020 a pilot course and those are being developed now as we speak. I would like to invite now a mini panel for just 10 minutes to explain a little bit more about what trying to do with the school of business ethics. So we have Letty and Mike and father Ezra, so we know who father Ezra is. So Letty, can you just introduce yourself briefly?

Letty Garcia – Associate Director Leadership Initiative, Harvard Business School: 09:21

Hi everyone. My name is Letty Garcia. I am the associate director of the leadership initiative at the Harvard business school. And this is not a secret. I am a transfer from the Harvard divinity school over to the Harvard business school. So I bridge the gap between leadership and practice in this very tactful way.

Prof. Michael Useem – Director Center for Leadership & Change Management at the Wharton School: 09:46

I’m Mike Useem, I’m on the faculty of the Wharton school. I’m responsible for leadership in several different forms in school. I’m a transfer from physics by the way, just to reflect the fact that we’re all multi discipline. But I just want to underscore the, the agenda that we’re, we’re thinking about couldn’t be a more important time to begin to think about trying to leverage out ethics and responsibility in business. And we’ve been doing that and it’s great that you’re doing that.

Rev. Philip Larrey – Chairman, Humanity 2.0: 10:17

So okay, so we know father Ezra, we’ll start with you. So, so what do you think about this is where are we going? What do we need to be careful? And what do we need to perhaps emphasize?

Rev. Ezra Sullivan – Director of Project Vision, Humanity 2.0: 10:32

Well, with any school of ethics, the first question in my mind, it’s practical and the question is who’s going to be doing the teaching? Where’s the teaching going to happen? For how long and precisely the issue that we can’t educate people for three years if they only have three months available, then frankly, just getting some of those practical details wrinkled out is the first step. Now, every practical detail has to be aimed at some end. And the question is, to what end are we, are we helping people? And the answer is both to be successful in business, but to be the right kind of people who make good ethical decisions. I strongly have a sense that character is one of the first and foremost elements that we need to aim at, which seems very abstract and certainly as a professor fuller said, it’s a disputed topic. However, in my mind, by entering into the interior, then we’ll see exterior effects. We do this even when we habituate animals, right? If I can help my dog to want to do the right thing, you train them well then he’ll do the right thing. He won’t bark or hit people or you know, bite them and so on. So we’re trying to do this for humans, but on a higher level, not just training them as we would an animal, but helping them to interiorize goodness, truth, all these transcendental values.

Letty Garcia – Associate Director Leadership Initiative, Harvard Business School: 11:59

Just to add to that, I think one of the things that strikes me about this, this is a great opportunity to really help people tap into their values. In my day to day work with executives. I truly believe that one of the ways that you can build the character of a leader is to help them understand who they are. So just training programs will not suffice. You really have to think about the values and how people form and shape the value. So I think that this is a very important endeavor because of that. And I’m really excited about the fact that we’re looking at the interior that we’re helping people think, you know, from inside out. How do they act and it comes from who they are as a person.

Prof. Michael Useem – Director Center for Leadership & Change Management at the Wharton School: 12:43

Got a couple of pragmatic thoughts to offer up. My university by the way, goes back to 1741 compliments of Benjamin Franklin. And then along came Joseph Wharton in 1881. And I’m a little bit embarrassed to say that for the first 120 years of the business school back to 1881, we offered no coursework on leadership or ethics. So that was a lapse. But we finally figured out, I guess rather belatedly, that those were intrinsic in business life. You’re not to want to work with somebody who is unethical and certainly somebody who is not able to lead. That said, we now require, this is true not to graduate graduation, weekends coming up a week from Sunday. You have to do two things, you have to pay your library fines, and number two, you have to pass a course on leadership and ethics and a couple of thoughts from the experience now trying to build that out.

Prof. Michael Useem – Director Center for Leadership & Change Management at the Wharton School: 13:34

It’s been a hard road to get it right. It’s got to stick. You got to get people to show up, all that sort of thing. And to hear just a couple thoughts on, on the pragmatics as you build the program up in the next 12 to 24 months. Number one, and we kind of learned this a hard way, kind of backed into it, really important in our, in our view to link ethics and all the issues around that if it’s a business setting or a business group to company strategy to the culture of the firm to these days, enterprise risk management since ethical lapses, look at what has happened at a few companies where ethics were challenged. And so there’s a huge downside risks that’s directly related to enterprise risk management. And then I think number two to get people to come that’s a challenge.

Prof. Michael Useem – Director Center for Leadership & Change Management at the Wharton School: 14:30

That’s a topic for a different day. But I think our, our underlying challenge once they show up is how do we get the ideas to really stick? So they walk out of the room with the ideas and love to hear my panelists. Thoughts on this. Just a couple observations on our part. Cases are really important. Number two, researchers, lots of research in this topic. Sometimes a couple of numbers or a quantitative study can kind of settle an issue. For example, does a CSR not only help those who are targeted by it but the company from it? And the answer is yes in all kinds of ways if done well. And then maybe most importantly finding ways of bringing people who are not only in the Academy but people who are in business. I was sitting next to a person here that some of you have met from Cisco. Her former boss, a guy named John Chambers, spent time with him in our own experience of bringing people in who’ve been in kind of the hot seat, the corner office, so to speak, to reference how they built the culture and worried about enterprise risk management and dealt with ethical issues. Certainly out teaches me in terms of what I can do. So some combination of academic research, a great case experience and then people from the world who have been struggling with these issues directly. That’s my quick thought.

Rev. Philip Larrey – Chairman, Humanity 2.0: 15:58

One of the reasons that we organize this forum is precisely to hear these kinds of things. We want to listen to people in the business world. I’ve spoken and Matthew also can testify. We spoken to many people and none of them so far are evil. We, we, we’ve never spoken to somebody who, who you, you know, you’d think is out doggy dog world, make money get rich or die trying. And maybe it’s just the cross-sections that, that we’ve spoken with, but I don’t think so. Most people out there are good. But I think Jennie talked about toxic environment for motherhood. Sometimes you get a toxic environment in a business environment. And that is what creates evilness, I think. So yeah, Mike this is great. How can we make an impact? This is something that we’re asking ourselves. The last thing that we want to do it, and Morad can correct me if I’m wrong. The last thing that we want to do is organize new initiatives or do stuff that everybody already is doing. We want to do something that has an impact that’s going to leave a difference. And I think that there is a there’s a market for that. I think that hopefully people will be attracted to what we have to offer.

Letty Garcia – Associate Director Leadership Initiative, Harvard Business School: 17:31

So just to I’ll make you laugh. I think so the reason that I went from the Harvard divinity school to the Harvard business school was because I took a co course called “CEOs at the crossroads.” And that’s when I realized that business leaders have very tough decisions and that they’re not evil, that they’re intentionally good people, but something in the water something’s going on that allows for certain behavior to express itself. So I thought to myself, how can I, someone from the Harvard divinity school crossover and help business leaders think ethically? For me it was a lot about the internal as father Ezra had said before, but I think that there is room for that. People are hungry for it. I think there’s a huge need and I completely agree that we don’t need other initiatives that truly the practical, how do we actually implement this? And I’m very happy to help with that.

Rev. Ezra Sullivan – Director of Project Vision, Humanity 2.0: 18:27

Just one response to both Michael and Letty is I’m thinking of two things. It’s called contextualized ethics. And then there’s narrative ethics. And these are both related to case studies and there are two different issues. One is we can talk about these broad, transcendental values, goodness, truth, but we all know that it’s going to be contextualized differently. How I live out truth is going to be different than how you about truth, because we live in very different worlds. I’m in here in Rome, I’m a priest, etc. And so part of it is trying to give people both the broadest vision of the highest values and then also, as you say, showing them how to live those out in a really concrete way because you want your business to succeed. If you’re teaching people business ethics and their businesses are failing, then that’s actually not ethical, right?

Rev. Ezra Sullivan – Director of Project Vision, Humanity 2.0: 19:19

Their business has to succeed. If it’s a good business, meaning it’s a, it’s a business that’s pointed toward authentic goods that help you in flourishing. And one way to do that is by case studies. Now, my Alma mater, it’s from 1696. It’s a St. John’s college, you know, so a little bit older. And what we study at St. John’s in Annapolis, Maryland is the great books. It’s the classics of civilization. And one of the things that we noticed is we’ve had programs for soldiers coming home who have PTSD and they come home, they’re trying to deal with the trauma that they’ve seen when someone has fallen in the battlefield, when there’s a friend or just dealing with consumerism of life after they’ve dealt with the highest important issues, now they’re coming back. You, we’ve seen this in movies now, they see way too many toothbrushes to buy.

Rev. Ezra Sullivan – Director of Project Vision, Humanity 2.0: 20:05

So one way of dealing and helping them to encounter reality in a deeper level, to go to those transcendental values on a concrete level, it’s actually giving them literature that has case studies that teaches them about themselves. So one of the best ways to help soldiers to overcome PTSD is to get them to read Homer’s Iliad, where it describes the deaths of many people, but they’re all dignified deaths. These men matter, they’re important and they’re not just numbers. And so I suspect that something like this could be very valuable in business contexts too because we all know Mark Twain says that that fiction is easier than reality. And so fiction is fitted to our view. Whereas if we have case studies, we want both. We both want fiction and we both want case studies of actual cases. So this is, you know, I’m sure we’ll be talking about this a lot, but this is one of my proposals that I think can invite interesting conversation.

Prof. Michael Useem – Director Center for Leadership & Change Management at the Wharton School: 20:49

You know, I’m totally in the same school on that in that we want cases, we want research, we want people who’ve done it and been there in the classroom. But it is amazing how impactful literature can be as well and history. So we use a lot of history. I know you do too. Both of you do. A lot of literature so let’s keep all that on the table for sure. And then just a one additional thought here. We reach a lot of people as, as your schools do too, but it’s sort of, it’s still a drop in the bucket and I’m self-critical that these ideas of leadership and ethics and responsible behavior, it really ought to be out there. And I’d be out everywhere. And I think our challenge, but also the opportunity here is to leverage. So given the platform that you represent, I think in collaboration with the people in the room, some schools that are represented here on the panel, I think there’s a unique opportunity here to reach a lot of people have to think about that. Technically people can come for a couple of weeks, not five months, can’t do a degree, they can do a certificate. There’s a lot of thinking on that, that we can work with you. But I think this is a unique opportunity to leverage.

Rev. Philip Larrey – Chairman, Humanity 2.0: 21:40

Okay. With that we’ll go to our next panel. So thank you so much father Ezra, Mike, and Letty.

See related article: Fr. Ezra Sullivan Delivers Project Vision Panel at Humanity 2.0 | ESG News – Vatican City


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