School of Business

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   Contact Information

    The Institute for Corporate Responsibility
    2131 G Street, NW
    Washington, DC 20052

    Email: Patti Niles
    Phone: 202-994-5206
    Fax: 202-994-5966

Spiritual Antecedents of Corporate Governance

The impact of religious belief on issues of corporate governance is a virtually untapped are of research. Yet governance policies come from cultural norms that set out the appropriate ways in which organizations should be run. This research proposal aims to fill that void.

There has been some attention to the issue of how personal religious beliefs have impacted business behavior. One can think of assessments of the influence of religious beliefs on evangelical CEOS (See, e.g. Laura Nash, Believers in Business) or in terms of issues of spirituality in the workplace, but for a variety of reasons, religious often is relegated to the backburner of studies of business. In the West, there are political precedents for keeping religious belief out of decision-making, for instance, the idea that separation of church-state means separation of religion and business. To be sure, there are Civil Rights restrictions again religious discrimination. At the same time, many leaders and organizations do rely on spiritual resources in operating companies and that may be even more true globally. Moreover, when it comes to governance issues, little attention has been given to the religious and spiritual heritages of countries and regions. Yet, at the heart of cultures is a way in which the world is view and that worldview is often influence by, historically and/or currently, through spiritual resources. While some research has attended to cultural issues generally, this research project attempts to investigate a relationship between deeper spiritual perspectives, the norms and values embedded within those perspectives and how those cultural norms the contribute to corporate governance regimes. The intellectual aim is to uncover a set of relationship that can be further explored and enrich the study of corporate governance as well as the ways in which religious, explicitly or latently, has lasting impacts on contemporary governance processes. The deliverable aim to is publish a paper in a first-rate journal related to Management, Governance, or Ethics.

The Principal Investigator is Timothy L Fort. Professor Fort has his law (JD) degree and also a PhD in Theology. He taught a course in comparative religion and business ethics (Cultural Norms in Global Business) for ten of his eleven years as a professor at the University of Michigan. He is resurrecting that class at George Washington University. He has written widely on issues of comparative corporate governance, religion and business, business ethics, and business and peace.

The project would have the following components;

(1) Modest support of the re-development of Cultural Norms in Global Business Class to be taught at the George Washington School of Business and cross-listed with GW's Elliot School of International Affairs;
(2) Research support for the project to result in a paper. This would include 2/9ths Summer Support for Professor Fort in Summer 2013 and as well as the cost of three research assistants per term.
(3) Support for the development of a class based on the research to be taught at the George Washington University Law School and cross-listed with the GW School of Business PhD Program.