Ethics key to avoiding mistakes of the past

In a time when the capability and ethics of our leaders are regularly questioned, alumnus Mark Hutchinson is looking to avoid a second global financial crisis through a landmark partnership with UQ.

The year was 2007, and a toxic bubble of poor credit and ‘sub-prime’ mortgages in the US burst, toppling a system based precariously on unsustainable and unscrupulous finance practices.

The fallout sent ripples through the global economy, and scenes not seen since the Great Depression played out around the world – businesses closed or, at best, posted record losses; people lost jobs and pensions; and families lost homes and futures.

The primary contributor to the global financial crisis (GFC) was a lack of global regulation in the banking and finance sector. Lapses in judgement and leadership led to investment in products (and people) that were likely, and in some cases even expected, to default.

As a leading global business figure and the former Chief Executive Officer and President of General Electric Europe, Mark Hutchinson (Bachelor of Commerce ’86, Doctor of Business honoris causa ’14) saw the devastation the GFC caused and has decided to take action to prevent a similar crisis.

Hutchinson (pictured) is partnering with UQ to build a generation of ethical business practitioners, fit to lead society into the future. His support in creating the new position of Professional Chair in Ethics forms part of a $1 million partnership to drive meaningful change by making ethics a foundation in the education of young professionals.

Hutchinson has also been named Executive-in-Residence to UQ’s Faculty of Business, Economics and Law, a voluntary role which will see him guide students and staff through the complexities of ethical decision-making, training and leadership.

“For me, learning how to act with integrity and do the right thing is as vital as learning how to read and write,” Hutchinson said.

“To truly prepare students to become ethical advocates in their future workplaces and communities, we need to engage them in an ongoing conversation as they encounter and resolve issues in real time.”

Hutchinson recently returned to his alma mater to provide a series of informative lectures throughout Australia on ethics in business and finance, aiming to stimulate better awareness about good ethical practice. 

“When you talk to young professionals, they care about what an organisation values, how it behaves and if it has a good culture,” Hutchinson said.

“These aspects are now seen in equal measure to salary, which is fantastic.”

“Ethical leadership is vital to securing stable economic growth for Australia and the world.

“That’s why it’s so important that we teach ethics in ways that are practical and relevant to our future leaders and the situations they will face in their careers.”

While this generous gift has gone a long way towards realising the goal of a Chair in Ethics, there is still further support needed to make the creation of this teaching position a reality.