Reflections on Ten Years of Ethix

In ten years of publishing Ethix, we have had Conversations with 76 leaders regarding business, technology, and ethics. The interviews have taken place in various venues across the United States and in many parts of the world, including China, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Switzerland, England, and the Central African Republic.

Most interviews were done in English, though we had the support of a translator in China and in the Central African Republic.

I conducted a few of the interviews on my own, but generally I have been accompanied by a colleague. For the first 30 issues, David Gill and I conducted all the interviews together. Since then, I have been joined by colleagues from the School of Business and Economics at Seattle Pacific University (Kenman Wong, Denise Daniels, Ryan LaBrie, and Jeff Van Duzer), and by other business colleagues Roger Eigsti, John Terrill, David Gautschi, and Gerard Beenen.

All but one of the interviews were done in person. When I was in Washington, D.C., to meet with Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, she was called into hearings on Abu Grebe. I had to leave, so we conducted the interview by phone a few days later.

Kenman Wong and I met Eric Pillmore, Tyco senior vice president of governance, for breakfast in a casino restaurant in Las Vegas — where he was attending a convention for ethics officers. David Gautschi and I met Janet Reno in her home in Miami.

We have learned that restaurants are not ideal for interviews. The Italian restaurant in Bellevue, Washington, where I met with Pat Gelsinger (Intel) and the German restaurant in Chicago where David Gill and I met with Gary Ginter were both extremely noisy.

On the other hand, retreat centers provide a great venue. I met with Prabhu Guptara and Toni Schonenberger from UBS at the Wolfsberg Center in a centuries-old chateau in northern Switzerland, with Januar Darmawan at the Nutrifood executive retreat center outside of Jakarta, Indonesia; and Jimin Zhu at the conference center for Shogang in Beijing. George Ting (Impress Eight) met us in his conference area in Kuala Lumper, Malaysia, surrounded by his collection of Native American art.

Factory tours have added to the understanding of particular businesses. My wife and I donned protective suits to tour the Nutrifood processing plant outside of Jakarta. John Terrill and I were invited to the Wal-Mart “Saturday Morning Meeting” for executive sales reviews and then toured their warehouse distribution center in Bentonville, Arkansas. I walked the Pacific Crest Industries factory floor with Steve Bell in Sumner, Washington, and the Fareway Stores automated warehouse with Fred Greiner in Boone, Iowa.

We have experienced the progression of technology in the way we have captured our conversations over the years. The first conversations were recorded with an analog tape recorder. The interviews were then transcribed by numerous local friends and colleagues to create a script from which to edit. About four years ago, we advanced to a digital recorder capable of storing about 80 minutes of conversation. We now use the next version of this recorder, which is capable of storing more than 20 hours of conversation (and costs much less to purchase). The transcriptions are now done in India; the file is uploaded through the Internet, and the transcript is returned in a few days compared with a couple of weeks that the old analog conversations required.

My conclusion from these Conversations? I have learned something good about business from every interview. There are no perfect companies, and there are no perfect leaders. But unlike the impressions often given by other media, there are many great businesses out there, and there are many thoughtful, compassionate, creative business leaders who are working hard to do the right thing.

Participating in these Conversations has been a great experience.

The magazine has undergone its own transitions. The first issue was called “The Bulletin for the Institute for Business, Technology, and Ethics” and was eight pages, featuring a conversation with then Safeco chairman and CEO Roger Eigsti. At the suggestion of Mark Neuenschwander, the name becameEthix starting with issue five. That’s when we moved to 12 pages as well. Our first 16-page issue was November/December 2001. Expansion to 20 pages came with issue 34, March/April 2004. November/December 2006 marked the first full-color issue with our special feature on the Central African Republic.

Beyond the Conversations, it has been valuable to have others join us in taking on parts of Ethix. In September 2003, starting with issue 31, Kenman Wong began writing the response to ethical dilemmas; Gerard Beenen took responsibility for the InReview section and added reviews of his own as well; Seamus Phan began contributing the Asian Perspective; and Stuart Jenner took on the Forum Section (which has languished a bit of late and will be revived). Roger Eigsti began editing NewsNotables in September 2004. Many others have contributed to Ethix as well. This is truly a team effort.


Al Erisman
Executive Editor