The Business Ethics Alliance® started in 2005 after the Enron scandal that rocked Omaha. (Enron started in Omaha, you know.) Dr. Beverly Kracher, holder of the Robert B. Daugherty Endowed Chair in Business Ethics & Society in Creighton University’s Heider College of Business, joined forces with three Omaha community members to address the need and interest in local business ethics education. The three were Butch Ethington, Ombudsman and Director of Ethics at Union Pacific Railroad (retired); the late Bruce Hamm, Principal Consultant, Compass Solutions; and the late Jim Swoopes, then Creighton University’s College of Business Professional Ethics Advisor. Laura Larson, Dr. Bev’s graduate assistant, also worked on the project.
In the spring of 2006, Anthony Hendrickson, Dean of Creighton University’s Heider College of Business, and Fr. John Schlegel, President of Creighton University, approved the formal creation of a business ethics group to be associated with the Heider College of Business.
While Creighton University is known as the community leader in ethics education, strength is gained when multiple organizations align. Thus, organizers met with David Brown, President and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, and Jim Hegarty, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau (BBB), to invite their organizations to partner on the business ethics initiative.
In the fall of 2006 and throughout 2007, initial business ethics programs were tested for interest in the local community and a strategic committee met regularly to create the structure needed to run the business ethics programs long term. Robert Bates, former CEO of Jefferson Pilot and an engaged and respected member of the Omaha business community, offered his leadership as the original Trustee on this initiative. Todd Johnson, Gallup, and Dennis Weiderholt, DLR, also joined the team. Laura Larson became the first employee, serving as Associate Director.
In March 2008, the Greater Omaha Alliance for Business Ethics (herein the “Business Ethics Alliance”) was legally established. A stand-alone not-for-profit entity, the Business Ethics Alliance now enjoys an affiliation with its founding partners as well as hundreds of Trustees from for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. It is for-and-by the community. The partnerships that make up the foundation of the Business Ethics Alliance make it a distinctive and highly innovative organization.
The purpose of the Business Ethics Alliance® is to promote an environment where the discussion and practice of ethics is encouraged and expected in our community. We aim to establish Omaha as the center of business ethics excellence. The Business Ethics Alliance has a unique and timely opportunity to make a measured, positive difference in the Greater Omaha business community and to serve as a model for Ethical Cities around the world.