Australasian Business Ethics Network (ABEN) is group of academics and practitioners that have been coming together for 10 years.  The current chair Dr Heather Stewart from the Department of Business Strategy and Innovation, along with the support of the committee – Ass Professor Eva Tsahuridu (RMIT), Dr Julia Benkert (Swinburne) and Dr Alessandro Bressan (University Notre Dame – Australia), recently held the inaugural mid-year virtual exchange (workshop). With over 40 attendees centred around the theme of Business ethics during a pandemic: ABEN responds to COVID-19 there were 15 presentations. The presentations included Clare Burns (BSI PhD candidate) who provided insight into defensive routines of whistle blowers during the current pandemic. Other presentations included ethical issues such as the dilemmas of coping with COVID-19, the innovations needed in addition to the challenges particularly in the rapid push for working from home.

Whilst business ethics is recognised as challenging in the best of times, COVID-19 creates the opportunity for innovations, developments and the chance to reset. As business ethics specialists, the virtual conversations turned to how we should reflect on the existing and emerging ethical issues and the implications for business practices such as social equity, shareholder activism, leadership, and performance such as ESGs and corporate financial performance. The collegiality of this group was palpable with rich conversations and collaboration emerging along with the enthusiasm to keep the momentum:

“I got up this morning knowing the ABEN conversation was on – so exciting and I wasn’t disappointed – we need to keep this up.”

Professor

As a result, there is already movement across the attendees to create change through promotion of work presented through the ABEN site and an e-book. Despite the massive shift and fatigue of online gatherings, the interaction within this group was high:

“…of all the online gatherings, I have been to since COVID-19, this one felt like we were doing something.”

Researcher

With over 20 institutions represented from three different continents, the engagement in this virtual exchange has already had impact through the development of ideas. Taking this to the next step has also begun as we to take this experience into our practical research and extend current academic thought on implications for business ethics practice and scholarship.