BROOKE GLADSTONE: We're back with On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. In a shocking development that nobody ever could have predicted, the magazine called Business Ethics isn't doing very well these days. This has partly to do with the advertising recession and partly to do maybe with the total absence of business ethics! Anyway, so the headlines about Enron, MCI, Worldcom, Tyco, Adelphia, AOL, Xerox and so on would have us conclude. But founder, publisher and editor Marjorie Kelly is unbowed. She is seeking to reinvent her organization and continue her crusade for corporate social responsibility. She joins us now. Marjorie, welcome to our show.
MARJORIE KELLY: Thanks for having me.
BOB GARFIELD: In your most recent piece in Business Ethics you wax nostalgically about your first scandal as a [LAUGHTER] editor and publisher of Business Ethics and--you know there's a certain wistful quality to it; it's really very charming. And then you go through the years until you reach what you describe as "the ethics-Perfect Storm" that American business is being buffeted by now. What can we learn about the last 15 years of corporate social responsibility as we look at the Enrons and MCI/Worldcoms and Arthur Andersens and Tycos of the world?
MARJORIE KELLY: Well you know Enron is an interesting example. They were on the list of the hundred best companies to work for in America. They had these great policies against fraud and, and you know discrimination, and Ken Lay gave speeches at ethics conferences, so-- they had all their ducks in a row, and yet there was something tremendously rotten at the, at the very core of this company. And I, I think that that is a, a metaphor for how, how we have progressed as business. I mean we've put all of these things on the side, but we haven't looked yet at the core issue which is corporations exist only to make money and only for shareholders -- you know enough talk about free markets -- let's talk about power -- and we need to get power in some different hands.
BOB GARFIELD:Well I guess it's axiomatic that among the things the free market is free of is conscience, and all of the focus is increasing shareholder value. If that is the central truth of American corporate life, how do you regard your last 15 years of doing what you do at Business Ethics Magazine, your life's work -- in other words -- has it been, has it been a naive exercise?
MARJORIE KELLY: Has it been in vain? I don't think so. The field of, of corporate social responsibility has been a huge success. I mean there, there didn't use to be any ethics officers at major companies when I started this publication, and now there's-- at least 400. Every major corporation has one. So you have this, this enormous growth of this field of corporate social responsibility, and so it's, it's not bemoaning what's come before; it's just getting down to work and rolling up my sleeves for what's next.
BOB GARFIELD:Well so you're still fairly sanguine about the future of business ethics as a principle. What about business ethics the magazine. What is its future?
MARJORIE KELLY: The publication is going -- going to go on, but it's been published as a private for-profit corporation for 15 years, and we're going to turn it into a non-profit, and we hope to keep the name the same; we'll, we'll see. It's been around for 15 years, and we have a little bit of, of notoriety.
BOB GARFIELD: Have you tossed around the idea of coming up with something that's-- a little less-- you know - oxymoronic?
MARJORIE KELLY:Yeah. We have tossed it around. But you know it's really hard to - what, what do you call it? I mean you could call it Corporate Accountability; you could call it-- I don't, I don't know what you call it.
BOB GARFIELD: I suppose Feeding Frenzy is out of the question.
MARJORIE KELLY: [LAUGHS] Yeah, that, that really hasn't been at the top of our list. So we're open to suggestions.
BOB GARFIELD: [LAUGHS] Okay. Marjorie thanks very much.
MARJORIE KELLY: All right. Thanks.
BOB GARFIELD:Marjorie Kelly is editor and publisher of the at least currently-titled Business Ethics coming in a new non-profit form to a newsstand near you. [MUSIC]
by Medeski Martin & Wood