Best Practice: Moral pointers for every business

We look at new ways for businesses to address ethical considerations at every level of the organisation

By Damian Schogger, December 13, 2010
Many businesses are now appointing an ethics guardian, to provide a moral barometer

Many businesses are now appointing an ethics guardian, to provide a moral barometer

The global economic crisis has brought corporate behaviour to the fore, with new regulatory compliance and codes of conduct implemented. But regulation and compliance do not cover ethics, through which a company conveys its values for the long term. The Jewish Associate for Business Ethics' (JABE) Good Business Practice project will address this through a unique corporate ethical training programme and supplementary materials.

Driven by the media, the internet, and online social networking, today's consumers are not only interested in product, price and quality, but are increasingly taking into consideration a brand's "externalities" - the impacts an organisation has on the world and society. No longer will a "good-value" product - whether it's the latest must-have clothing or a hot stock - be seen purely as that.

Conscientious and savvy consumers are now closely monitoring a variety of aspects of a brand, including its supply chain - looking at how and where the product was made - or what environmental or health impacts the company behind the stock is having. And they are also looking at the individual or collective behaviour of a company's senior management.

These factors, combined with the ongoing uncertainty of global economic conditions and continued lack of faith in large institutions, mean that businesses are now considering appointing an "ethics guardian" at senior management level - someone who will ensure the business's ethics are clearly established, maintained and adhered to and will become the corporation's moral barometer.

Since businesses have a host of regulatory obligations to meet, as well as internal policies and procedures to adhere to, why shouldn't corporate governance extend to ethics? With the appointment of a board member in place, organisational buy-in from top to bottom is also crucial for this stance to become part of the corporate tapestry.

Businesses have a host of regulatory obligations and internal procedures. Why shouldn’t this extend to ethics?

Ultimately, strong, definitive, ethical direction and strategy must be provided through robust leadership. Directors can use a well-defined ethics policy with graduated objectives - from overriding principles at board level to rules that can be implemented at operational level - to entrench the ethical values they want their company to represent, with a view to their permeating every aspect of the business.

In response to this, Good Business Practice is developing a bespoke corporate ethics training programme. This will be supplemented by Good Business Practice's advisory panel, guiding principles and exclusive chairman's interactive seminars.

The new training will be designed to embed ethics into the corporate culture and brand, build openness and integrity, promote strong teams at work and enhance reputation by engendering trust. The course content will cover ethical leadership by example; using the ethical component when making management decisions; reacting to and learning from relevant and topical news items; and workshops with case studies for discussion.

Having undergone training, and implemented an ethical policy, business should be conducted against a set of published guidelines.

Such an ongoing commitment to ethical standards, along with greater transparency, can only benefit a business in the future, both internally and externally. While good news never travels as quickly as its bad sibling, a steady reputation built through positive actions is certain to build morale within the workforce, while externally it is likely to attract new consumers and staff, as well as make investment and partnerships more attractive options.

Inevitably, as the world shrinks and new markets continue to extend their sphere of influence on the global business landscape, much of an organisation's reputation is now measured against its conduct, values and integrity and those of its employees, partners, customers and suppliers. With this in mind, a board-level appointment to lead, maintain and promote a business's ethics, combined with a company-wide commitment to live and breathe them, is no longer an optional extra, but an intrinsic element of any corporate framework.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Good Business Practice corporate ethical training, contact JABE on 020 8905 4048

Last updated: 12:17pm, December 13 2010