From the mid 1990s through to 2002 I was a regular attendee and member of the European Business Ethics Network and its annual conferences - including a very subdued 2001 event held in Valencia across the tragic events of 9/11.
EBEN is the premier association for applied and professional ethics across the expanding European Union and its conferences bring together a diverse range of academics and practitioners that almost give it a multi-disciplinary feel. Importantly the network includes consultants and practitioners who mix with ethicists and philosophers addressing the challenges of academia, research and of applied ethics within the education, business and public sector communities.
After a ten year absence I was able to attend the 24th Annual EBEN conference held in the University of Antwerp in Belgium from 15-17th September with its theme of ―Dare to Care - Building a caring organsiation‖ organized by Luc Van Liedekerke from the centre for Ethics, University of Antwerp.
The Conference had five main themes of Business Ethics Education, Whistle Blowing, Virtue in Business and Management, Continental Philosophy and business Ethics and a debate workshop on the difficult interaction between caring and HR.
Over two and a half days over 100 papers were delivered across parallel and plenary sessions. Whilst it was impossible to attend all sessions, it became clear that our European colleagues face many of the same issues that we do in the Australasian context. These include the difficulties of integrating ethics into and across the business and professional curricula in addition to challenges of applying ethics to the business and public sectors. These are perhaps even more pertinent in the European Union amidst the financial crisis gripping the region. This was, as expected, a common point of discussion amongst many the delegates.
The social events were also fitting with Antwerp‘s historical context with an organ recital in the city‘s magnificent gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady, which also houses several major art works including Peter Paul Ruben‘s, ―The Raising of the Cross.― The conference dinner was held at the recently restored ―Borla‖ Theatre and provided an opportunity for delegates to mingle in somewhat less formal surrounds over a buffet dinner.
EBEN is arguably one of world‘s most prominent ethics associations and its conference is amongst the top two or three such events on the ethics calendar. The attendees at EBEN events commonly include some of the leading ethicists and philosophers from across the globe and one of the advantages of the EBEN event is its relatively informal nature that allows frank discourse between participants, and this year‘s event was no exception.
As with most academic conferences the importance of research output was also evident with several journals and publishers, including the Journal of Business Ethics having a strong presence in addition to numerous notices and calls for other conferences and special editions.
The 25th Annual Conference will be held in Barcelona, Spain from the 19-22nd September, 2012. EBEN also organizes a somewhat more focused research conference each year typically in June hosted by one of the EBEN chapters, (EU member country networks) and the 2012 conference will take place in Newcastle (UK), June 7-9.
Whilst traveling from Australia to Europe for a two day event has its challenges, the opportunities to network with some of the world‘s leading scholars and practitioners proves more than a worthwhile experience. I would enthusiastically recommend EBEN events to AAPAE colleagues and I certainly hope that it will not be another ten years between EBEN events.
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.