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The Heroic Spirit of Business

Morgan White, MBA Class of 2016

“The heroic spirit of business”: A phrase borrowed from the book Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Raj Sisoda, I repeat it to myself throughout the day. It’s my mantra—a reminder of why I’m at Stern.

I hail from the nonprofit world. It’s an extremely diverse world with lots of niche interests. Mine was access to medicine. The right to healthcare is a human right, and, as some of the biggest entities in that world, pharmaceutical companies are in the position to make the biggest widespread impact. When and where I could, I bridged the gap between pharmaceutical companies and institutions providing medical services to populations that would not otherwise have them.

I saw a lot of different approaches to these issues in the 100+ companies we worked with. The best outcomes I saw were when a company took this mission to heart; when it wasn’t just a Corporate Social Responsibility issue, but an operational one. Early in my nonprofit career, I was shocked to discover that such an approach existed. Ultimately, I came to Stern because I wanted to learn about similar approaches across other industries.

Through the Stern Opportunity, I hope to share interviews with people who can attest to the heroic spirit of business. The first on my list is Michael Posner, who is the co-director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, the first center to focus on human rights as part of a business school.

Morgan White: Why do you think businesses should be thinking about human rights?

Michael Posner: The world has changed. The economy is more global. Companies have expanded operations and supply chains all over the world. With the phenomenal expansion of digital technology, companies are operating in a fishbowl. While governments play an essential role in protecting the rights of their people, big companies increasingly have to navigate complex questions about how they respect human rights, especially when they operate in very weak states.

MW: As an MBA student, should I really be thinking about this now?

MP: Business school is a great time to get an introduction to these issues. While you may not be asked to help your company figure out how to solve a major labor rights problem in the supply chain in your first job out of Stern, these are the kinds of issues that keep senior executives up at night. Business school can and should be giving future business leaders tools to understand how human rights considerations apply to business and how these concerns play out in various industries.

MW: Why did you establish this center at NYU Stern?

MP: Dean Peter Henry has a vision of Stern as leader in shaping a positive relationship between business and society. It was a natural fit for the center, and gives us a platform to work directly with companies facing major human rights challenges. Working with students has been a highlight. Jessica Marati (MBA2) joined our meeting on supply chains in Bangladesh last May and we’ve just started a Stern Signature Project to continue this work.

To learn more about the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, visit their website at or follow on Facebook ( and Twitter (@NYUSternBHR).

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