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High standards in the spotlight

When the Colorado Ethics in Business Alliance (CEBA) was founded in 1990, as Ethics and Business – The Colorado Corporate Responsibility Awards Program, the idea was to divert some of the spotlight from the many ethical breaches running rampant in the news and illuminate the good things that Colorado professionals engaged in.

The program was founded by Bruce Hutton, then a professor and later dean of the University of Denver College of Business; R.J. Ross, executive director and founder of the Samaritan Institute; and this reporter, Jeff Rundles, then editor of Colorado Business Magazine. Its intention was to discover best practices in Colorado business, ask business students at DU to research and evaluate these businesses, and then bestow awards amid a well-attended ceremony and plenty of publicity. The shining examples of all that is good about business in our state would elevate the collective consciousness. 

It’s been an uphill battle over the years, given that so many unscrupulous business practices have come to light in the ensuing decades, not to mention the sad fact that such scofflaws generally garner massive media coverage while honorable practices receive shorter shrift. And yet, nearly every year since the first ceremony in spring 1991, a myriad of Colorado businesses, nonprofit organizations and businesspeople have been highlighted by CEBA, setting high standards for ethical practices. Generally people say these recipients have been honored with such an award, but the truth is, they themselves have honored us by their work.

And so, for the 22nd time since its inception, CEBA will once again highlight its award winners at an April 10 luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Convention Center in downtown Denver.

Awards include: the Bill Daniels Business Ethics Award for outstanding corporate responsibility, the Daniel L. Ritchie Award for extraordinary service and leadership, and one nonprofit will receive the Samaritan Institute Award for outstanding community service.

But there is more to CEBA than the accolades it doles out. Under the leadership of Board Chairman Doug McLemore and Executive Director Peter Feather, the organization is hard at work to bring the message of high ethical practices to wider audiences.

One such effort is CEBA’s Ethics Index, developed by board members Roy Koerner and Dan Danbom, along with a CEBA Task Force that seeks to measure the ethics tenor of the Colorado business community through measurement of real data. Similar to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) calculation, the CEBA Ethics Index draws data from state agencies and other governing organizations available in the public record, measures the number of complaints directed to a particular business or profession, and compares these to the total number of companies and licensed professionals. Then, using a simple mathematical equation, a factor “F” is computed that sets the base year to 100, and then in subsequent years the Index can clearly indicate if there was improvement. The Index provides an overall number as well as progress in various business sectors. The good news is Colorado is on a multi-year string of annual improvement according to the Index. 

The big news for CEBA is its launch of the CEBA Ethics in Education Program, in development this spring. Working initially with educators at Russell Middle School in Colorado Springs and the high school at Peak-to-Peak Charter School in Lafayette, the program seeks to drive ethical learning in middle school. For students, it will be “a product of personal assessment to create an accurate language for ethical decision-making,” said McLemore. He added the program will eventually evolve to a progressive certification is ethics.

“We don’t have anything (in education) that effectively measures character,” McLemore notes. “The concept is that if you can get a better quality person with a high character, they will progress to be a better high school student, college student, business person and a better citizen.”

Program participants are creating a curriculum to identify essential ethics skills, create flexible ethics courses for different schools, and eventually roll out the program at multiple schools in Colorado.

McLemore, a financial planner with his own firm McLemore Financial Eduvisors, has been involved with CEBA since 2007, when he served on the awards program selection committee; he became chairman of the board in 2011. Along with Executive Director Feather, a retired executive with a long and distinguished career in nonprofit governance and consulting, the aim for CEBA is three-pronged:

1)  Continue the grand tradition of the Ethics Award program;

2)  Continue the development of the Ethics Index to help Colorado businesses to be the best corporate citizens possible;

 3) Use the Ethics in Education Program to reach out to future leaders of Colorado business with a message of high character.

With a nearly 25-year history of honoring Ethics in Business in Colorado, and a solid program to bring ethical character development to business leaders today and tomorrow, CEBA is poised to keep Colorado in the forefront of business ethics for years to come.

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Jeff Rundles

Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at jrundles@cobizmag.com.

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