Ethikos Weekly Editor’s Picks – March 11, 2014



Ethikos Weekly Editor’s Picks

Examining Business Ethics Since 1987

Editor’s Top Choice:

Why ethics is often grey and not white: Business ethics challenges in a global world
From David De Cremer at The World Financial Review: “An increasing number of international business scandals such as those at AIG, Tyco, WorldCom, Enron, Siemens, Royal Dutch Shell, and Olympus have created a strong sense of awareness that the moral fiber of our companies is in a poor shape or may even be nonexistent. Ethically flawed leadership behavior as shown by the ex-CEO of Converse being arrested in Namibia, the CEO at United Healthcare being forced to step down, and Patricia Dunn of Hewlett Packard being charged in an ethics scandal are close to becoming the norm rather than the exception. The world-wide financial crisis clearly showed that the irresponsible behavior of managers and organizations inflicts pain on society and its members.

For example, financial institutions did not hesitate to allocate millions in bonuses to the very people who drove the banks and the country into a financial crisis, and banks like Goldman Sachs were mentioned several times involving cases of fraud and misrepresenting information. Cases like the United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal signal that the erosion of basic moral principles of right and wrong has reached a peak resulting in historically low levels of trust in our political leaders and legal institutions. The costs of these ethical escalations are widely shared and have a damaging effect on the reliability and profitability of many industries. The German company Siemens was involved in a string of high-profile bribery scandals and recently agreed to a record $1.6 billion settlement, and the oil company Royal Dutch Shell settled a fraud case in which they overstated resources for an amount of $150 million.” Read more

Other Featured Picks of the Week

The ongoing ethics struggle of banks

Edward Hadas, for Reuters, writes, “The Swiss Bank Employees Association has told an uncomfortable truth: it was ‘generally known’ that for many years some of their employers profited from customers’ ‘tax evasion.’ That is incontestable, as many of the banks’ managers concede. But the practice, supposedly now ended, raises an important question about ethics and business. Why were neither the managers of the Swiss banks nor their employees worried by this business model?

The hardly hidden truth was included in an Association press release which called on Brady Dougan, the chief executive of Credit Suisse, to apologize for insulting the Swiss bank’s employees.

Dougan, who was trying to explain to U.S. legislators how Credit Suisse had stopped helping Americans escape taxes, said that ‘some Swiss-based private bankers went to great lengths to disguise their bad conduct from Credit Suisse executive management.’ The claim, said the employees’ group, slighted the professionalism of the workforce. Besides, it was ‘hardly credible.’” Read more

Here’s why Whole Foods lets employees look up each other’s salaries

Alison Griswold, columnist for Business Insider, writes, “Have you ever wondered how much money your boss makes? If you worked at Whole Foods, you could look it up and find out.

Leaders of the supermarket chain believe in keeping employees as informed as possible, even when it comes to pay. Under the company’s open policy, staff can easily look up anyone’s salary or bonus from the previous year — all the way up to the CEO level.” Read more

9 things great leaders say every day

From Inc.:

“Your words are among your greatest tools. They’re a window into your vision, your values and your abilities. So, whether you’re running a giant organization or just trying to herd a group toward a certain outcome, there are messages you need to communicate constantly in order to lead effectively.

Start every day planning to say each of these things to at least one person, and watch the results.” Read more

UK phone hacking scandal’s unsexy lessons on business ethics

On AllBusiness, Hanna Hasl-Kelchner writes, “New businesses are often hard pressed just to get up and running. Long hours, hard work, and stretched financial resources are part of any startup’s standard operating procedure. Under those kinds of conditions, it’s no surprise that newbie entrepreneurs sometimes feel compelled to resort to situational ethics. In other words, they let the ends justify the means, even if those means involve unclean hands.

It reminds me of a student I once had who was starting a business with a friend who had questionable access to a customer list. When he asked me, ‘What should I do?’ I told him that risks taken for expediency today will set a precedent and become the norm for tomorrow. It creates a slippery slope of increased risk and liability exposure.” Read more

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