Blog Archives

In The City, For The City

Harvey Turner is the senior and founding pastor of Living Stones Church in Reno, NV. His organization is often cited as among the fastest growing churches in the United States. In this talk from TEDxUniversityofNevada 2014, Harvey asserts that one of the keys to the health and growth of his organization is it’s community focus. Harvey encourages organizations to systematically find ways to for their members to be more involved in the community most proximal to their location. An integral, outward focus is good for the organization’s members, which is ultimately good for the organization.

After you watch the video, please share your thoughts in the comment section below.




Jamie Amelio Of Caring For Cambodia

In this excellent talk at TEDxUniversityofNevada 2014, Jamie Amelio, the founder of Caring for Cambodia, encourages us to get bothered and stay bothered about issues in the world we live in. Jamie tells the story of being an expatriate executive living in Singapore when she took a trip to Cambodia that forever changed her life. What she saw in Cambodia prompted her to return and eventually found 24 schools for needy children.

After you watch Jamie’s inspiring story, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.



What Can We Learn from Occupy Wall Street?

What is your take on the occupy Wall Street movement?  I have been fascinated by it and the ensuing debate regarding the 99% vs. the 1%.  Without clearly stating a goal or taking a political position, this loose confederation of protesters has impacted the conversation in society.  This morning I listened to a politician who said we should not be talking about these issues since it was a challenge to the free enterprise system.   While the politician might not be up for the debate, I have no worries that the free enterprise system can handle the debate.

One of the reasons this debate fascinates me is that it is my job to educate students who might be striving to become part of the 1%.  I haven’t seen a demographic breakdown but I would bet that a fair proportion of the 1% is business owners and business leaders many of whom were educated in business schools.  I wonder what values these leaders learned in business school.

I am currently reading a book titled The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards written by Paul Woodruff, a philosophy professor at University of Texas, Austin.  While the book does discuss philosophy, it is primarily about leadership.  The Ajax dilemma originates from the Trojan War in Greek mythology and is the story of two great warriors, Ajax and Odysseus, and which one of them should receive the coveted armor of the slain warrior Achilles from King Agamemnon.  Odysseus is the brilliant strategist who was the architect behind the Trojan horse.  Ajax is the workhorse soldier whose exploits on the battlefield are unmatched.  After the award goes to Odysseus, Ajax goes on a rampage and kills himself.  Ajax’s suicide creates deep division in the army.  Woodruff uses the story to frame the debate regarding the division of rewards.  Woodruff clearly uses Ajax to be representative of the 99% and Odysseus representative of the 1%.

When Agamemnon awards the armor to Odysseus almost all agree that Odysseus is more deserving than Ajax because without Odysseus the war could not be won.  Ajax on the other hand is replaceable, although it would take four or five soldiers to replace him.  But while Agamemnon’s decision is “fair,” the decision may have lacked “justice.”  Woodruff writes:

Fairness and justice are truly at war with one another.  Fairness is not wise.  Fairness is following principles wherever they may lead, regardless of people’s feelings.  Fairness is a trap in which justice and compassion die, where members of a team are hurt beyond repair.  Yet fairness has often been thought to be the heart of justice.  That cannot be correct.  The heart of justice is wisdom.

Wisdom is a quality of leaders.  It is not so mysterious as you may think, but it cannot be delivered by a formula.  Being wise, a leader pays attention to others and sets an example for the leaders who report to him.  The sort of action that is wise in one situation may be foolish in another.  A wise leader may have a reason in mind that calls for action today and inaction tomorrow (pg. 62-63).

So where does Woodruff take us with this reasoning?  Does he provide us an answer as to how we should divide up the wealth between the 99% and the 1%?  No he does not.  But what he does do is show us very clearly that leadership requires wisdom.  A leader who is not wise and whose decisions lack justice will risk destroying a community.

This is the type of story that I like to discuss with my MBA students.  It is my belief that becoming an integrated and wise leader requires that you are connected to the world around you. Being connected means you need to pay attention to not just what is going on in your field but also what is going in the arts and humanities, in politics, in science and religion, etc.  So I admire the occupy Wall Street protesters not because I think they are right, or because that I think they are wrong, but because they have asked me to pay closer attention to an important issue and to clarify my thinking on it.

James A. Sundali, Ph.D.

James A. Sundali, Ph.D.James Sundali is associate professor of strategic management. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona and his MBA and bachelor’s degree in economics from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He has been at the University of Nevada, Reno since 1997 and has taught strategic management, corporate finance, game theory, bargaining and negotiation, individual choice behavior, organizations and the natural environment, the psychology of gaming, and managerial and leadership insights from film and literature.

In 2006 he was awarded the B.J. Fuller Excellence in Teaching Award and in 2008 the Graduate Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award. In the last few years he has been involved in teaching abroad with classes in London, New York City, and Bilbao, Spain. His research is focused on experimental economics, behavioral game theory, behavioral finance, and individual choice behavior.

Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a significant theme in business operations domestically and globally. The essence of CSR is integrating stakeholder’s economic, social, environmental and other concerns into an organization’s operations to ensure that it can conduct and grow operations on a sustainable basis. Stakeholders include customers, employees, vendors, and the community a business operates in. CSR has become a topic of importance in the wake of fraudulent practices and negative impacts on the environment attributed to some businesses that have damaged the public’s trust. As a result, many companies have responded by taking actions to become better corporate citizens. These actions have ranged from philanthropy to embedding environmentally –conscious practices in their businesses.

Consumers of products and investors have choices about the companies they conduct business with and invest in. Therefore, a vital part of the CSR effort is reporting results to interested stakeholders of the organization. While there is no universally accepted means of reporting CSR activities, one organization is making inroads with developing standards for reporting. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a non-profit organization provides companies and organizations with a comprehensive sustainability reporting framework. The terms CSR and sustainable business practices have many similarities and have been used interchangeably. The GRI defines sustainability as a combination of long-term profitability, social justice and environmental care. It has been documented that more than 3,000 organizations from 60 countries employ GRI guidelines to prepare their sustainability reports. There are some prominent publicly traded companies who released sustainability reports on 2010 activities following GRI guidelines, including Amgen, Kimberly Clark, and UPS.

In 2011, the GRI issued G3.1, the latest sustainability reporting guidelines. The sustainability reporting guidelines provide a framework for reporting related to the content, quality, and boundaries of reporting along with standard disclosures to be made. Those standard disclosures encompass the following dimensions of a company’s operations:

  • Strategy and company profile
  • Economic
  • Environmental
  • Social:
    • Labor practices
    • Human rights
    • Society
    • Product responsibility

The type of business and the scope of operations, among other variables, will determine the specifics of items reported. To get a better idea of what is disclosed in a sustainability report, selected information from the 2010 UPS Sustainability Report covers:

  • A summary of key performance indicators (KPI) and comparative results for 2007 – 2010 plus goals for 2011 and 2020
  • KPIs include:
    • Penalties as a percent of total environment inspections
    • Water and energy consumption
    • Gallons of fuel per ground package
    • CO2 emissions, normalized
    • Total charitable contributions
    • Full-time employee turnover rate
    • Auto accident frequency
  • Detail sections supporting efforts in: minimizing negative environmental impacts, creating a safe, employee-friendly environment, and being a good corporate citizen to the community
  • GRI grade earned (B+ level), based on GRI guidelines
  • An assurance report independently prepared by Deloitte and Touche LLP

CSR reporting appears to have been adopted by some large and well known companies. Those using the GRI framework employ standards that may aid in comparability of results from one company to the next. With the passage of time, it will be interesting to observe whether CSR reporting becomes more prevalent.

Jeffrey Wong, Ph.D. CPA

Jeffrey Wong, Ph.D. CPAJeffrey Wong is associate professor in the College of Business and received his Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. Wong’s work has been published in a number of journals including Behavioral Research in Accounting, Database, International Journal of e-Collaboration, and Internal Auditor.

His research interests focus on understanding how a firm’s strategic decisions and actions ultimately map to financial results. This research focus has most recently examined how a company’s information systems and investments in technology enhance the value of a firm.