2012 has been awash with failures in ‘ethicability’, in sound moral judgement and failings in corporate governance and a duty of care. Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered banks for rate-fixing and money laundering; the BBC for protecting one or more of its stars; in sport professional cycling finally admitted the massive doping programme led by Lance Armstrong, and an Australian radio station is being investigated for breaching broadcasting standards for airing a hoax call.
We need a new moral compass in business, that’s not driven exclusively by profit. In his book ‘Ethicability’, Roger Steare states ‘… professional and business ethics is demanding because of the complexities of having so many other people’s interests represented in the workplace. If we are to avoid gridlock at work, we need fewer traffic lights (less regulation) and more roundabouts (more principles).
Business strategy and planning now not only needs to include a CSR strategy, but also a clear ethics programme that helps people at all levels of business explore core principles such as trust, integrity, and fairness; along with a safe, open forum to explore what ‘doing the right thing’ means in the context of business decisions that involve conflict between commercial and customer interests. In the busy world of deadlines and sales-focused activity, the short-term need to meet targets often trumps long-term considerations such as reputational risk.
This for me is the heart of ‘Enlightened Business’. Business that recognises and responds to these challenges, in a mature adult way – with dialogue, with cultural intelligence and with the understanding that the culture of a business, and indeed an entire industry, requires as much investment of time and energy as does the strategy to be profitable.