Ruffin Summit Examines Trust


In the wake of the financial crisis, the subject of trust is a priority for all businesses and their managers. At the Ruffin Summit on Public Trust in Business, which took place at the Darden School of Business from September 18-20, over 30 world-class researchers from various disciplines gathered to share their cutting-edge research on trust and to ask the question: How can we restore public trust in business?

Sponsored by the Olsson Center and the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics (the Institute), the Summit brought together top scholars from around the world—from institutions such as Harvard Business School, Stanford University, Nuffield College at Oxford University and the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University—for in-depth, high-level discussions that will help shape the research agenda in the area of “public trust in business” for the next several years.  

“What you’re doing here really matters,” said Darden’s Dean Bob Bruner, who welcomed the scholars. “What will lead us out of the financial crisis is the leadership and innovation of a coalition of leaders who will work tirelessly to pull us out.”

The research summit advanced efforts which have been underway for some time at Darden to bring attention to concerns about the relationship between businesses and their core stakeholders.

Darden Professor Andrew Wicks, director of the Olsson Center and an academic advisor with the Institute, said that the Ruffin Summit exceeded its high expectations. “The world-class scholars who came lived up to their billing—the intellectual quality of the discussion was very high, and I think we made significant progress on this pressing issue,” he said. “The Ruffin Summit gave birth to an emerging area of academic research—public trust in business—and we expect it will serve as a catalyst for much-needed work in this field.”

In 2004, a Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics study, Mapping the Terrain of Business Ethics,asked Business Roundtable CEOs what they deemed to be the most pressing ethics issues facing business leaders. The survey foundthat “public trust in business” was not only the most pressing issue for CEOs, but that it also was a critical aspect of the other key themes they identified.

This information was gathered before the economic crisis and led to the creation of the recently published report, The Dynamics of Public Trust in Business—Emerging Opportunities for Leaders, in partnership with the Arthur W. Page Society. Several Darden faculty contributed to the report: R. Edward Freeman, Jared Harris and Andrew Wicks.

Founded in 1955, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business is a professional school that improves society by developing principled leaders for the world of practical affairs.

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