2. Values

Section 2: Values


Principle 2 | Values: We will incorporate into our academic activities, curricula, and organisational practices the values of global social responsibility as portrayed in international initiatives such as the United Nations Global Compact.

UNSW Strategy 2025 articulates our values in aiming to make significant contributions to national and global prosperity through the translation of research and education into economic and social benefits. Our social justice achievements are built on our work with disadvantaged and marginalised communities. We have set ourselves high standards in environmental sustainability. And through our academic activities and curricula, we foster a culture based around the values of partnership, integrity, transparency and ethical decision making, openness and trust, and mutual respect.

The Business School’s commitment to Strategy 2025 very much aligns to our responsibility to PRME (as evidenced in the table, Alignment of UNSW Strategy, PRME Principles and Business School Activities in the Introduction). The values of global social responsibility as portrayed in the UN Global Compact principles of anti-corruption, environmental sustainability, labour rights and human rights are similarly incorporated into our academic activities and curricula.

Specific examples of our values in action now follow.

2.1 Responses to Anti-corruption and Ethical Business Practice

2.1.1 The Royal Commission Inquiry into the Banking & Financial Services Industry

A Royal Commission Inquiry into Australia’s banking and financial services industry ran from December 2017 until February 2019, in response to considerable media reports of a culture of greed and misconduct within several Australian financial institutions, including instances of financial institutions involved in money laundering for drug syndicates, turning a blind eye to terrorism financing, ignoring statutory reporting responsibilities and impropriety in foreign exchange trading.

The Business School has played a significant role in the Inquiry, which brought to light numerous examples of corrupt practices and seriously challenged society’s confidence in the corporations and business professionals involved.

Business School staff contributed to the Inquiry’s call for background papers and were involved in interpreting and providing commentary on the findings. Professor Pamela Hanrahan, School of Taxation and Business Law was retained by Commission to write three background papers: Paper 7: Legal Framework for the Provision of Financial Advice and Sale of Financial Products to Australian Households; Paper 30: Information about Selected Aspects of Foreign Financial Services Regulation; and Paper 25: Legal Framework Governing Aspects of the Australian Superannuation System.

Professor Hanrahan has presented at numerous forums on her involvement with the Royal Commission and perspective on the findings. These include being a panellist in a Women in Banking and Finance ethics forum, presenting to the Law society, to the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and at a Superannuation Lawyers Conference. In September 2018, she led a School of Taxation & Business Law discussion forum, ‘Corporate Governance – Recent Developments and the New Research Agenda’.

Associate Professor Anthony Asher, School of Actuarial Studies and Risk made the following submissions to the Royal Commission: Superannuation Issues, 21 September 2018; Insurance Issues, 25 October 2018; and Interim Report, 26 October 2018.

An alumni event was held in November 2018, titled The Business of Ethics: Making sense of the Banking and Financial Services Royal Commission. The panel discussion brought together scholars and practitioners to discuss ethical conduct and corporate responsibility in relation to the Banking and Financial Services royal Commission Interim Report. It was offered in collaboration with the Centre for Law, Markets & Regulation (CLMR), a research partnership between UNSW Business School and UNSW Law.

2.1.2 Reflections and Action

The Business School acknowledges that the Royal Commission findings of unethical, sometimes illegal behaviour has been performed by business professionals, presumably graduates from business schools, and that business education institutions in general share some responsibility for the misconduct. More importantly, we need to review our practices in order to better prepare graduates to deal with ethically-, and sometimes legally-challenged organisational cultures.

Reflecting on the impact of the Royal Commission on business education, Professor Hanrahan says that we need to encourage students to think about their understanding of rules, where they come from and to identify what blocks compliance. Our students need insight into how decisions are made in organisational contexts or cultures. They need to learn about behavioural ethics and how to change negative organisational cultures. Professor Hanrahan has been involved in a newly developed course for AGSM’s MBA program, which addresses these outcomes.

MBAX9151: Law, Regulation and Ethics
Corporations, and the individuals who work in them, need to ensure that they operate lawfully and in a manner that meets stakeholder expectations and broader community standards of acceptable behaviour. This is true across business entities, not-for-profits and in the business of government. It requires managers to understand and be accountable for compliance with a complex array of legal and non-legal rules and expectations, derived from different sources. The reputational risk which flows from decisions that influenced by personal, professional and institutional ethics can be amplified enormously by social media. This course is designed to equip students with the analytical tools to identify and manage the governance, compliance and risk management issues that arise from law, regulation and ethics in the context of businesses’ relationship with society.


2.1.3 School of Banking and Finance Masterclass and Workshop

In November 2018, staff attended a masterclass, Teaching Ethics and Responsible Management in Finance, conducted by Andrew Newton, Adjunct Professor at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and Frankfurt School of Finance and Management. The presenter shared his extensive experience in teaching ethics, corporate responsibility and stewardship in finance-related fields. This workshop has supported the School in reviewing and formulating responses to the Inquiry’s findings.

2.1.4 Ethics in Finance Project

Banking & Finance Senior Lecturer, Natalie Oh, spearheaded a UNSW grant funded project in response to the Royal Commission, to develop online resources presenting threshold concepts in ethics. The modules will provide foundational understanding of moral imagination, ethical frameworks for decision-making and ethical behaviour. They are planned to be used for individual study and for students to draw on them in class and assessment activities in PG and UG courses. See sections, Values and Methods for further examples of the Business School’s response in curricula to the Financial Services Inquiry.

2.1.5 School of Risk and Actuarial Studies

Issues of professionalism and social responsibility are explicitly covered in several Actuarial Studies courses, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. These include:

  • The group assignment for ACTL3141/5104 specifically covers issues of fairness in life insurance underwriting.
  • ACTL3142/ACTL5110 Actuarial Data and Analysis, ACTL4001/5100 Actuarial Theory and Practice A and ACTL4002/5200 Actuarial Theory and Practice B are capstone courses and one (of two) prescribed texts is “Working ethically in finance”; as is the case in ACTL5302 Risk and Capital Management.
  • One of the questions in the 2017 ACTL1101 exam asked about driverless cars, the shared economy, climate change, data security and cyber risk, big data and the ageing population – and their impact on actuarial work.
  • In the 2018 ACTL4002/5200 exam, students were given a media release critical of a particular insurance product and asked: “Explain why the consumers concerned are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, and the context for ASIC’s criticisms.”
  • ACTL3142/5104 Actuarial Data and Analysis. In a new guest lecture delivered by Deloitte, students were introduced to key consideration and principles for building ethical algorithms that comply with the corporate and social objectives for an organisation

The PRME Excellence in Teaching Award is for innovation in education practice that inspires students to aspire to responsible leadership conscious of ethical, social and environmental impacts. In 2017, A/Prof. Anthony Asher, School of Risk & Actuarial Studies was awarded this prize in recognition of his ongoing contributions to curricula.

2.2 Responses to Environmentally Sustainable Business Practice

2.2.1 Grand Challenge on Inequality: A Climate Dividend for Australians

In our 2017 SIP report, we noted that Professors Richard Holden, School of Economics in the UNSW Business School, and Rosalind Dixon, UNSW Law, had been appointed to address the Grand Challenge on Inequality. In 2018, they presented their plan: ‘A Climate Dividend for All Australians’.

”A comprehensive market-based approach to making energy in Australia more affordable, more reliable, and ensuring that the social cost of energy use is taken in account. It involves a tax of A$50 per Metric Ton of CO² emissions on electricity, direct combustion, transport, fugitive emissions and Industrial processes (‘the carbon tax’). The revenue generated would then be returned, evenly, to very voting-age Australian citizen. This would represent a tax-free payment of approximately $1,300 per person per annum.

Under the plan, border adjustments for traded goods would mean that Australian Industry would not be put at a disadvantage. Exports to countries without comparable schemes would receive rebates for the taxes paid. Imports from countries without such schemes would be charged fees based on the carbon content of those products.

The plan would also permit the rollback of subsidies for renewables and similar measures—these being unnecessary given a carbon tax. This could save the government more than $2.5 billion annually.”

Since its launch by Professor Keryn Phelps in November 2018, the plan has received significant press coverage. Professors Dixon and Holden have held a number of press interviews at high quality outlets, it was featured in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Saturday edition as Ross Gittins’s column where he praised the plan in glowing terms, and it was selected as one of the seven best new ideas on 2018 by Peter Martin at The Conversation. Professors Dixon and Holden have presented the plan at multiple conferences and invited talks and continue to do so. It has been greeted favourably by a number of federal politicians and conversations are ongoing.

2.2.2 Responding to climate change: Managing just transitions from coal

In 2017, Professor Peter Sheldon, from the School of Management and the Industrial Relations Research Centre, entered into discussions with the CFMMEU (the union covering mining and energy industry workers) concerning the difficulties for workers in the coal mining industry and in coal-fired power stations, of reconciling their need for a livelihood with their recognition of the contribution of their industries to climate change. In order to assist the union in its efforts to meet the challenge of advocating a “just transition” out of coal, Professor Sheldon and Professor Junankar, with Antony de Rosa Pontello produced a draft discussion paper in 2017. Following policy endorsement of the report by the union, it was released in October 2018, receiving widespread publicity and prompting significant debate.

Report title page, Sheldon, Junankar R and De Rosa Pontello, 2018

2.3 Responses to Labour and Employment Rights

2.3.1 International research project

Professor Stephen Frenkel, from the School of Management, co-leads an international and interdisciplinary project called “Changes in the Governance of Garment Global Production Networks: Lead Firm, Supplier and Institutional Responses to the Rana Plaza Disaster.” The project involves teams from Sweden, the UK, Australia, Germany and Bangladesh. It seeks to understand the challenges of improving labour standards in garment global production networks. The research explores the perspectives of lead firms, suppliers and workers in the context of ongoing institutional innovation in the Bangladesh garment industry, elicited by the 2013 Rana Plaza Disaster.

2.3.2 Gender pay equity and precarious employment

In 2017-2018, Hon Associate Professor Anne Junor, of the Industrial Relations Research Centre, was engaged by McNally Jones Staff to analyse witness statements prepared as part of a gender pay equity claim by the Public Service Association and the Professional Officers’ Association in the Industrial Relations Commission of New South Wales. She prepared an extensive report on the under-recognised and under-valued skills of a range of school administration and support staff in NSW public schools. This report will be used as expert witness evidence when the case comes before the Commission in 2019. It represents an advance, both in synthesising the sources of historical gender-based undervaluation, and most particularly in systematically itemising sources of skill invisibility — hiddenness, under-definition, under-specification, under-codification and under-recognition, and their contribution to under-valuation.

2.3.3 Management courses

MGMT2705: Industrial Relations and MGMT3705: Management and Employment Relations, offered at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, examine employment relations in both local and international contexts. In particular, students learn about the relationship between International Labour Organisation conventions and local legislative initiatives, allowing them to critically evaluate the Australian regulatory framework and its ability to deliver socially responsible outcomes for workers and their families.

Student feedback attests to their relevance and value: “I think I learnt a lot about this course because we were encouraged to do the readings and discuss in class during presentations. Through these homework tasks, I have learnt so much about the importance of trade unions and how Australia’s labour standards have come about. Even though these are things we take for granted, they would be helpful to know when we progress further in the workforce.”

2.4 Responses to Human Rights Issues

Both staff and students have been awarded prizes in recognition of their contributions to human rights issues through courses and competitions.

2.4.1 International Award: Aspen Institute ‘Ideas Worth Teaching’ Award 2018

Aspen Institute has named a UNSW Business School course as one of its top 20 in a prestigious worldwide list. The Washington-based institution selects ‘exceptional courses that inspire and equip future business leaders to tackle the issues of our time’ and illuminate how and why they are business issues. Associate Professor Peter Kriesler’s course, Economic Growth, Technology and Structural Change, examines problems associated with growth, including human rights issues and those relating to equity and environmental impact. It seeks to explain the factors that determine how societies grow and develop, with special emphasis on the role of technology and finance. The course was named alongside courses run by world-leading business schools such as Harvard, Cornell and Yale. It was one of only a few from schools outside of USA to be named on the ‘Ideas Worth Teaching’ list (2018, Macdonald, UNSW Business School).

Assoc. Professor Peter Kriesler, School of Economics

2.4.2 UNSW Students Succeed in Doing Business for Social Good

In 2018, UNSW students won both undergraduate and postgraduate categories of The Big Idea Competition, against 13 other universities. This competition is offered through Work Integrated Learning (WIL) courses COMM3030 The Big Idea Competition and COMM5201 Social Enterprise: Doing Business for Social Good.

The competition is delivered in conjunction with The Big Issue, Australia’s longest standing and most significant social enterprise. The Big Issue is an independent, not-for-profit (NFP) organisation that delivers solutions to help homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged people to positively change their lives. In the Big Idea competition, students explore an area of disadvantage and propose a business case for an appropriate social enterprise, either as a start-up or in conjunction with an existing NFP.

Bugisu Project, a cross-disciplinary undergraduate team including UNSW Business School, Engineering and Arts & Social Sciences students, won judges over with their social business which focused on supplying specialty coffee to Australian workplaces while reinvesting 100% of profits to gender equality programs in Uganda, where the coffee is grown. Bugisu Project is focused on zero waste, delivering coffee in reusable canisters and recycling used coffee grounds.

The Business School team flower2empower won the postgraduate category for their Indonesian-based social enterprise. Focused on upcycling wedding flower waste to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities, flower2empower looked at the production of pressed flower candles and soaps targeted at the wedding favours and decorations market.

The runner up UNSW postgraduate team was Renewable Space, whose social business aimed to reduce the volume of plastic waste going to landfill through initiatives to build sustainable, accessible and affordable homes.

Student Teams in Big Idea Competition