Ronald Jeurissen, 25 years of ethical growth

“From day one, Nyenrode has been a great adventure to me”

December 13 2022

It is a dreary day when Professor of Business Ethics Ronald Jeurissen looks back on 25 years Nyenrode. Jeurissen gave up his position as University Lecturer of Business Ethics at Tilburg University and took his first steps on Landgoed Nijenrode. A whole new world opened up to Jeurissen: “My first day was hilarious. In the first hour I managed to get into a tiff, twice,  and my career at Nyenrode hadn’t even started yet”.

The late Professor Henk van Luijk knew Jeurissen from a previous collaboration and had asked him to fulfill the position of University Associate Professor at Nyenrode. Jeurissen soon realized that the culture at Nyenrode was completely different from what he was used to: “At Nyenrode, you work together a lot more. A lot more comparable to what it is like in the corporate world.”

Jeurissen got familiar with the various professional groups that Nyenrode worked with at the time: “When I first started, I thought that an actuary was an African bird, but then I discovered that they actually are insurance mathematicians, who are also highly capable of reasoning about ethics. With our ethics team, we provided vocational education for this professional group.”

Ethics as a spider in the web

Ethics and social responsibility have become increasingly important at Nyenrode over the years: “After twenty-five years, it has become clear that ethics have moved from the margins to the center stage and have taken a defined spot in the curriculum. And in current times, there is no more ignoring it. I also fully agree with our newly emeritus professor Leen Paape, who argues that the central ethical responsibilities of companies should be given legal status. Mark my words, that will happen".

Jeurissen describes ethics as ‘caring for others’. According to him, it isn’t any more complicated than that. “Instead of reasoning from your own perspective, you reason from the other person’s perspective.” This sounds simple in theory, but it obviously is difficult in practice. The neoliberal thinking of the past decades put the ‘self’ first and was therefore an important cause of the great lack of sincere ethically oriented corporate policy in recent years: “We had unlearned it. We lived in an optimistic economic world, in which we assumed that the ethical solutions would present themselves.”

The medium changes the rules of the game

Where in the past news distribution was in the hands of newspapers and magazines, Jeurissen notices that during the last 25 years a new game is being played. A game in which also social media and accessible discussion platforms are getting a larger playing field.

The recently deceased French philosopher and anthropologist Bruno Latour is a source of inspiration for Ronald regarding this topic: “Latour shows very clearly why, for example, so many people believe in conspiracy theories. This information is widely available and proclaimed loudly, where the scientific rebuttal isn’t. Scientists believe that science will convince people eventually. But that is what Latour actually refers to as superstition. People believe what sounds convincing, whether it is true or not. That is why we need to promote our scientific insights way more”.

So does this mean that there is a lack of leadership in science? Ronald believes there is: “Latour shows that anyone who tells a good and strong story can be believed. People are more likely to trust a person than a report. I do believe that inspiring and persuasive communication can give science a louder voice. The problem is that people think of science as part of ‘high society’ that oppresses them. More and more people at Nyenrode are realizing this problem and are looking for a different way of thinking and communicating about management and business administration. That really appeals to me".

Deeply rooted thinkers with radical thoughts

Together with Nicolas Chevrollier, Assistant Professor at Nyenrode, Jeurissen initiated the “Radical Thinkers Series” at the end of 2021. With these series, they manage to give a voice to science with alternative perspectives, right there where business, society and ecology meet: “In times of great change it is good to let the roots of your thoughts root deeper. Not only do radical ideas go further than previously thought, but they also show that deeply rooted thinkers are able to build a solid foundation. These are the leaders of science and of tomorrow”.

Jeurissen is intrigued by the first speaker in the series, Timothée Parrique. Parrique speaks on the theme of 'degrowth'. This phenomenon is still unmentionable from an economic point of view, but Jeurissen still believes in it: “It is great to see that we can go back to the basics together through a behavioral change and that personal leadership is the key to personal happiness”.

Prof. Dr. Ronald Jeurissen is Professor of Business Ethics at Nyenrode Business University. He is a member of the Nyenrode Faculty Expertise Center Entrepreneurship, Governance & Stewardship. Jeurissen has been affiliated with Nyenrode Business University since 1997.

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