University-Business Chairs, partners with conflicts of interest

La colaboración público-privada tan laureada en algunos sectores económicos se está convirtiendo en una fórmula muy habitual en el ámbito universitario. Se trata de las Cátedras Universidad-Empresa, de las que en Cataluña hay alrededor de una sesentena.

In the face of this usual partnership, it is worth asking whether university support is born from a business commitment, guided by an ethical sense, to adapt training and research to the reality and needs of the labor market; if it responds to an interested maneuver, since companies can condition what is investigated with the financial resources they provide; or if it obeys a marketing strategy, because placing your brand next to a prestigious knowledge center is supposed to get a better reputational image. Perhaps the three motivations concur.

Conflicts of interest are evident in the case of chairs such as the Chair of Social Inclusion of The Endesa Foundation, since Endesa has cut electricity supplies due to non-payment of bills and it is difficult not to assign a share of responsibility in the generation of energy poverty. Despite the efforts of these and other companies to counteract the undesirable impact of their activities, they can be claimed much more than a University-Business Chair: a new social contract.

The purpose of 21st century companies cannot be limited almost exclusively to increasing profits to please shareholders, but international voices such as the BRT (Business Roundtable) encourage a redefinition and diversification of the value that companies produce, which now they must also seek the protection of the environment, diversity, be inclusive and promote dignity and respect, as well as expand the social actors to satisfy: employees themselves, customers, suppliers and the community, in addition to shareholders.

In this new paradigm, there would no longer be room for empty content communication or for futile attempts to make up the reputational image. Smoke curtains do not work. The communication of the facts is imposed: “More do and less say”.

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