Whittemore School of Business and Economics at UNH

UNH Prof Tapped for Ford Foundation Working Group on Business Culture

By Janet Lathrop
UNH News Bureau

June 8, 2001

DURHAM, N.H. -- Allen Kaufman, professor of management at UNH's Whittemore School of Business and Economics, has been named a Fellow of the International Center for Corporate Governance and Accountability -- a working group based at George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. -- with support from a prestigious Ford Foundation grant.

Beginning this month, fellows will meet for a few days at a time over the next two years, Kaufman says. Writing teams will prepare articles which may later be compiled in a book; the project is likely to end with a public policy forum on corporate governance.

Among the questions to be addressed is: How can today's business managers be encouraged to include such values as worker prosperity and environmental stewardship in their definition of Success -- ranking employee well-being, for example, as a priority beside high profits, dividends and advancing stockholder interests?

"It's a question to be wrestled with if you believe that a healthy free market depends on doing no harm to society and on the fair distribution of wealth," says Kaufman. In practical terms, answers might include naming an employee representative to a corporate board of directors, he suggests. At the international level, questions about how to balance the rights of the privileged and underprivileged tend to emerge -- as they have in recent scuffles over Free Trade agreements, World Bank policies and the International Monetary Fund in Seattle and Québec City, for example.

Attitudes to these topics change over time, Kaufman points out. Industry barons in the 1890s cared little about paying a living wage and less about protecting natural resources, but the climate was different after World War II, he notes. Then, U.S. business managers were proud to pay workers with a living wage and offer good working conditions. They recognized the value of conserving natural resources, as well.

Economic studies support the common-sense idea that the latter attitude helps to stabilize society by distributing wealth, and does a better job of promoting growth -- creating new wealth -- Kaufman explains. These will be some of the topics addressed by the new International Center for Corporate Governance and Accountability. "We may need rules or incentives to make managers more accountable because we've seen the situation weakened over the last several decades," he says.

Kaufman also participated in an earlier Ford Foundation working group, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, on how the military managed technology and what managerial lessons could be learned from the Cold War.

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