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Pioneers in business ethics: Kirk Hanson

Kirk Hanson ( is a senior fellow of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, in Santa Clara, California, USA, and former executive director of the Center. He is also Senior Lecturer Emeritus at the Stanford Business School.

Joan E. Dubinsky is Senior Lecturer, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland Fellow, Rutland Institute for Ethics, Clemson University. Dubinsky is the former Chief Ethics Officer, United Nations.

Questions for this interview were also provided by Gretchen Winter and Patricia H. Werhane. Gretchen Winter (, is Clinical Assistant Professor of Business Administration in the Gies College of Business and adjunct professor in the College of Law and the Grainger College of Engineering City Scholars Program at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign; she also is an invited professor at CY Cergy Paris School of Law.

Patricia H. Werhane is a Faculty Fellow at the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society at the Gies College of Business, University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign and Professor Emerita at the University of Virginia.

A note on this series: In the last 40 years or so, an entirely new academic and occupational niche for practicing ethics in business has emerged. Many of the original academic business ethicists came to the field through philosophy, then brought their thinking and research into business schools. Many of the original practitioners came to the field through the law and remain close to the practice of law.

In an effort to preserve and share this knowledge and practical experience, the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society at the University of Illinois Gies College of Business has filmed and transcribed the oral histories of these pioneers and early adopters. To date, almost 50 academics and practitioners have been interviewed, each with 25 years or more of experience in the field of business ethics.

This series aims to provide a better understanding of how the business ethics field and profession have evolved over the decades, through the interviewees’ own experiences. This interview was condensed for clarity and brevity. This interview is loosely based on the Business Ethics Pioneer interview that took place earlier, and updates have been made. For more details on this series, contact Winter.

JED, GW, PHW: How did you become engaged with business ethics?

KH: I taught at the Stanford Business School from 1978 to 2001, where I was the first business ethics professor. In 2001, I took early retirement and moved to Santa Clara University, where I was the Executive Director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, taught business ethics in the MBA and Executive MBA program, and held the John Courtney Murray S.J. University Professorship in Social Ethics until I retired in 2018.

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