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The ERS Commissioner leads the structured initiative to further develop and consolidate the integration of the principles of Ethics, Responsibility and Sustainability (ERS) in teaching and research at the WiSo Faculty. The position is currently held by Prof. Dr. Bernd Irlenbusch, holder of the Chair of General Business Administration, Corporate Development and Business Ethics.

Prof. Bernd Irlenbusch about his function as ERS Commissioner

"I feel good backing at all levels!"

Prof. Dr Bernd Irlenbusch heads up the Department of Corporate Development and Business Ethics at the WiSo Faculty. His research focuses on experimental business research, business ethics, organisational and personnel economics. In addition to his research activities, Professor Irlenbusch has taken on the role of ERS Commissioner. In an interview, he explains his duties and the goals he is working towards in this position.

Prof. Irlenbusch, in your research you deal with "Business Ethics", among other things. What concrete duties and functions do you have as ERS commissioner at the WiSo Faculty?

As ERS commissioner, I see it as my mission to advise the WiSo Faculty on ERS ("Ethics, Responsibility, and Sustainability"). To this end, individual members, committees or organisational units in the faculty can approach me with specific concerns or I might try to approach them when I recognise a potential need for advice myself. With regards to ethics, the faculty members - students and colleagues alike - should bring their own (different) values to bear on decisions. In terms of "Responsibility", we also build on the personal responsibility of individual actors and are guided by the principles of recognised organisations. In this context, we ought to mention the Initiative PRME ("Principles of Responsible Management Education") which the faculty has been a member of for several years. With regards to sustainability, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations are central in my view, with individual goals, such as Goal 4 "Quality Education", naturally being of greater concern to the faculty than other goals.

What value does an ERS commissioner bring to the faculty?

My hope is that having a central point of contact for ERS issues will strengthen their importance in the faculty and promote better coordination of individual activities. That way, we can generate synergies. The idea is that it will make it quicker and easier to breathe life into suggestions and initiatives.

The tasks you describe are very diverse and far-reaching. Which instances at faculty level help you to implement these tasks and functions operationally?

So far, I feel good backing at all levels of the faculty, starting with the Dean, the Vice Deans, the Faculty Council and the individual organisational units. For example, we are currently partnering with the Dean's Office, the Examinations Office and the Programme Management team on the process of establishing an ERS Award for the best Bachelor's and Master's theses to highlight the importance of ERS topics within our faculty.

Prof. Dr Bernd Irlenbusch

We have to ask ourselves what values we want to pass on to graduates. Ethical problems and dilemmas must also be given an appropriate place in the subject courses.

Prof. Dr Bernd Irlenbusch, ERS Commissioner of the Wiso Faculty

Your function as ERS commissioner covers the areas of research, teaching and transfer. Is this done equally or is there a focus on one of the areas?

In principle, I think that the importance of ERS topics is clearly increasing and that it, therefore, makes sense as an ERS Commissioner to be available in an advisory capacity in all three areas mentioned. But capacities are limited, of course, and we have to set priorities. That is why we are concentrating on teaching and the study programmes. Here, the support of the Dean of Studies Office and the programme management team is indispensable and I am grateful for their excellent cooperation. The goal is to raise students' awareness of their own moral values and to learn to prioritise these in ethical dilemmas close to their profession. The next step is that students should realise that conflicts in values do occur in professional life. How should you behave in situations where your values do not align with decisions in your company or organisation? How do you bring your own values to bear as effectively as possible? The third step is that students should learn about different theoretical approaches to weighing up their values when faced with ethical dilemmas. This three-step approach is based on the concept of "Giving Voice to Values", which is also recommended by the UN Global Compact. The concept focuses on situations in which decision-makers already have moral values and ask themselves how they can bring these to bear in decision-making processes in companies and organisations.

In addition to your role as ERS commissioner, an Ethical Review Committee has also been established at the faculty. How does your work and your function differ from that of the committee? At what level do you collaborate?

The primary duty of the Ethical Review Committee, which I was a member of when it was founded, is to review planned research projects for ethical criteria. Increasingly, funders of research projects and scientific journals require this sort of review for submitting research manuscripts. It often proves helpful when independent scientists with an ethically trained eye look at research designs, point out ethically problematic aspects of the designs where necessary and make suggestions to avoid any problems identified. In this respect, the Ethical Review Committee has a clearly defined mandate with regards to advising on planned research projects. I occasionally exchange views and opinions on the criteria to be applied with the Ethical Review Committee.

Professor Irlenbusch, thank you for giving us an insight into your meaningful role and exciting work as ERS Commissioner. We look forward to working with you on tackling the challenges in the areas of ethics, responsibility and sustainability together!

Interview by Daniel Scheu