Biography - Muel Kaptein

Muel Kaptein is Equity Partner at the international assurance and advisory firm KPMG and a professor in Business Ethics and Integrity Management at RSM Erasmus University. He has been active as an auditor, a consultant, teacher and researcher in the fields of ethics, integri-ty, sustainability and soft-controls since 1991.

Muel believes that ethics makes a positive difference in the lives of people and the perfor-mance of organizations. His purpose is to help organizations improve their ethics, in terms of both culture and policies and both their current constituents (managers and employees) and future constituents (students). For Muel, defining and measuring ethics makes ethics man-ageable and improvable.

Muel studied business administration between 1987 and 1991. During his internship at the Dutch employers association NCW, he wrote a widely distributed booklet on the content, im-plementation and value of business codes of ethics. He coined the phrase “A code is noth-ing, coding is everything.” In 1992, he received the Dr De Jong award for the best Dutch master thesis in management.

Academic positions
In 1991, Muel started as an assistant professor in Business Ethics at the RSM Erasmus Uni-versity. He then lectured on Business Ethics, Strategy & Ethics and Corporate Social Re-sponsibility. In 1998, Muel received his PhD for his study on ethics management, wherein he developed a model to measure and improve the ethical content of organizations. He was su-pervised by Cees Veerman and Eduard Kimman. In 2002, Muel was appointed professor in Business Ethics and Integrity Management at the RSM Erasmus University. At the age of 32, he became one of the youngest full professors in The Netherlands.

From 2003 to 2007, he was chairman of the Department of Business-Society Management at RSM and member of the general board of RSM. He currently lectures on Leadership, Sus-tainability and Governance, which is a compulsory, third-year course for all students in busi-ness administration. More than 10,000 students have participated in his classes so far.

Consulting and auditing
In the early nineties, Muel and his academic colleague Johan Wempe assisted the first organ-izations that pioneered in the field of integrity — the Dutch police, Airport Schiphol and the Ministry of Justice. As their consulting activities became successful, they moved in 1996 part-time to KPMG to found KPMG Integrity —the first consultancy service in this field among the Big-6 in the world.

Since then, Muel and his team have assisted many clients. He has, for example, developed codes of conduct for more than fifty organizations. He also helped Shell in making its first sustainability reports in 1997–99. He has especially helped clients that were confronted with incidents such as fraud, corruption and market abuse, seeking to restore their trustworthi-ness. Muel also became a soft-controls auditor. In 2010, he was the first person to integrate soft controls in the financial statement audit, which was at ABN AMRO Bank, followed by many other organizations.

Muel has developed different tools and methods to develop and measure the ethics and in-tegrity of organizations. For example, as part of his PhD thesis, he developed a question-naire to measure the ethical content of organizations, named the - Integrity Thermometer, which has been used by many organizations around the world and is also used to assess the business ethics within countries, such as within the US in 1999, 2004, 2008 and 2013. His model of the ethical culture of organizations has been adopted by the Dutch Central Bank in 2010. His model of The Diamond of Managerial Integrity (2003) has also been widely used to assess the integrity of individuals. Other tools co-developed by him are the ethics game Cards on the Table (1991) and The Dilemma App (2014).

Muel wrote seven books, namely “Ethics Management” (Springer, 1998), “The Balanced Com-pany” (Oxford University Press, 2002), “The Six Principles of Managing with Integrity” (Articu-late Press, 2005), “The Living Code” (Greenleaf, 2008), “Workplace Morality” (Emerald, 2013), “The Servant of the People” (2014), and “Ethicisms and their risks” (2018). The Dutch book “Why Good People Sometimes Do Bad Things” is in its 10th edition. In 2003, he co-edited the Dutch book “Business and Society” with the then prime minister of The Netherlands, Jan-Peter Balkenende. He has published about 40 peer-reviewed articles in international journals such as Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Organization Studies, Journal of Management, Human Relations and Academy of Management Review. Some of his research topics include virtue ethics, corporate ethical culture, whistleblowing, ethics programs and ascriptions of responsibility. His recent papers are about ethics as struggle, ethics leadership, how companies become too ethical and when the appearance of unethical behavior is unethical. Most of his publications can be downloaded from: In 2007, Muel received the ERIM Best Paper Award.

In 2013, he initiated a PhD research programme on Modern Supervision with nine participants from different regulators and on The Future of Business Ethics in 2015, with 11 participants. He successfully supervised the PhD students Niki den Nieuwenboer, Corrie Mazereeuw, and Franziska Zuber.

Some scientific concepts introduced by Muel are ethics management (1998), corporate ethi-cal virtues model (1998, 2011), corporate integrity theory (2002), autonomy model of respon-sibility (2002, 2015), integrity diamond of managerial integrity (2003), ethics safety net (2003), scale for unethical behaviour (2008), struggle theory (2014), and leadership in ethics (2016).

In The Netherlands, Muel has helped to put the following topics on the agenda of organiza-tions: codes of business (1991), ethics committees (1992), auditing of ethics (1993), ethical corporate culture (1995), mission statements (1996), behavioural fraud risk management (1997), sustainability (1998), ethics reports (1999), compliance (2000), trusted persons (2001), whistleblowing and ethics safety nets (2002), stakeholder dialogue (2002), integrity of the manager (2003), auditing of soft controls (2004), ethical risks of digitalization (2005), religion and business (2006), love and romance in the workplace (2008), balancing rules versus trust (2007), regulating corporate culture (2009), managing by intuition (2010), challenging in the board room (2011), new metrics and true value (2012), integrity of politics (2013), the end and resurrection of business ethics (2014), business ethics as struggle (2015), leadership in ethics (2016), demoralizations (2017), and ethicisms (2018).

Muel is a frequent speaker at conferences. Since 1991, he has presented at more than 400 conferences, seminars and roundtables. Some of the presentations can be downloaded from SlideShare ( He has also written many whitepapers, for example, in cooperation with the Dutch employees” association VNO-NCW and employ-ees association CNV. For an overview of all his whitepapers, click on the following link: Moreover, he has conducted research for the Dutch monitoring committee of banks as well as for insurers. He has also developed the soft-controls training for auditors, facilitating it twice a year, offered by the Dutch Auditor”s association NBA since 2004.

Since 2013, together with Professor Leo Huberts and the magazine Vrij Nederland (Free Netherlands), he has been publishing the Political Integrity Index annually, covering all Dutch politicians who have been publicized in the media due to an alleged lack of integrity.

Other functions
Muel is member of a supervisory board of a university, an ethics committee of an insurance company, and the monitoring committee of the code of conduct for Dutch pension funds. He was also integrity officer at RSM Erasmus University (2002-2016), is chairperson of the scientific integrity committee of the Erasmus University Rotterdam, and has led the cultural change program at KPMG in 2014–16. Since 2002, Muel is Section Editor of the Journal of Business Ethics, which is one the most influential business ethics journals in the world (with an impact factor of 2.354).

Muel was born in 1969 in Dordrecht, grew up in Papendrecht and currently lives in Sliedrecht. He is married and has five children. Muel enjoys practicing and watching sports and likes gardening, dining and travelling. Find more information on and