You are in for a treat! A new paradigm of business ethics Think outside the box Categorical imperatives of truth and reason Shared vision of core values: –C ommon purpose –R esponsibility –A ccountability –P rincipled behaviour
Business ethics…I didn’t think there were any! “Business ethics? There’s no such thing!” “A book on business ethics? Well that must be a quick read!!” “A course on business ethics? Well that’s easy, there are none!” “A professor of business ethics? Well what on earth do you do all day?!”
Oxymoron def. 1. a combination of contradictory terms, also considered a paradox. 2. a contradiction in terms
Is business ethics an oxymoron? Ethics = doing what’s right, building better societies Business = playing to win, doing what’s good for the firm So are we really Professors of Oxymoronity??!!
Understandable cynicism One in four UK employees says that they have felt pressure to compromise their own or their organization’s ethical standards One in five has noticed behaviour by their colleagues that violates the law or does not accord with expected ethical standards Institute of Business Ethics, Ethics at Work survey, 2005
Types of misconduct Type of misconduct observedEmployees observing it Lying to employees, customers, vendors, or the public26% Withholding needed information from employees, customers, vendors or public 25% Abusive or intimidating behaviour towards employees24% Misreporting actual time or hours worked21% Discrimination on basis of race, gender, etc17% Sexual harassment13% Stealing, theft, or related fraud12% Breaking environmental and safety laws/regulations12%
Scandals and collapses Enron, Worldcom, Andersen etc collapsing due to huge financial irregularities Shell’s mis-booking of oil reserves, price-fixing at Sotheby’s & Christies, corruption at BAE in Saudi Arabia? A handful of greedy executives? The tip of the iceberg? Or a rotten corporate system?
Degree of trust in specific organisations in the USA and Europe Source: Wootliff and Deri (2001). NGOs: the new super brands. Corporate Reputation Review, 4/2:157-65
Degree of trust in different types of organisation in the USA and Europe Source: Wootliff and Deri (2001). NGOs: the new super brands. Corporate Reputation Review, 4/2:157-65
Perceived credibility of corporations and NGOs regarding specific issues Environmental issues Human rights issues Source: Wootliff and Deri (2001). NGOs: the new super brands. Corporate Reputation Review, 4/2:157-65
A constant media spotlight Drinks industry and binge drinking Clothing and footwear companies and labour conditions Confectionery companies, poverty wages and slave labour Energy industry and global warming Fast-food companies and obesity
A brief personal example Or a word from our sponsors ….?
The case against ‘Dirty money’ Preventing academic criticism Hypocrisy Corrupting the corporate social responsibility agenda Legitimating tobacco industry
Resolving a personal ethical dilemma Academic freedom Using resources for positive change Appropriate openness, governance, and accountability Living with irony A leap of faith
An alternative approach to business ethics? Identifying the opportunities for change and the ‘structures of constraint’ Enhancing moral imagination –Recognising and understanding different moral perspectives –Explaining and rationalising these perspectives Developing new ways of considering responsibilities of business in society
Structures of constraint Businesses already have a powerful set of ethics embedded within their DNA Organizational life is often characterised by amoralization and moral muteness Leaders set the ethical tone in organizations People do what’s rewarded … and what they think they ‘should’ do
Opportunities for change Acknowledging and understanding the barriers Encouraging moral awareness and literacy – going beyond the business case Providing the tools for ethical decision-making Fostering creativity and moral imagination Walking the talk
A short experiment… Pretending to be a customer to get information about a competitor Outsourcing of call centre jobs from Ireland to India On a scale of –5 (very wrong) to +5 (very right), how would you rate:
Normative theories Consequentialism and cost-benefit analysis Duty or rights based approaches
Typical Perspective Single normative consideration for solving the ethical dilemma Ethical Dilemma ‘Lens’ of ethical theory
The value of ethical theories in facing ethical dilemmas in business
If the Professor of Business Ethics just talks about different perspectives or considerations…. ….then can we ever say if something is actually right or wrong?
New ways of considering responsibilities of business in society Morality is about meeting expectations … but also about challenging them Identifying broadly agreed upon norms or ‘moral minimums’ Seeking consensus rather than just moral absolutes Process of decision-making rather than just the decisions themselves Ensuring personal engagement rather than conformity and compliance
Some conclusions… There are ethics in business … they’re just not always visible, and don’t necessarily lead to the kinds of behaviour we’d like Morally motivated behaviour is possible in business, but is subject to considerable, and quite rigid structures of constraint There are few right and wrong answers, just better or worse decisions, or more widely acceptable behaviours Being ethical in business is a creative endeavour not just a rational one