What’s Next?


Post By: Adam Turteltaub

You see a headline that says “What’s next?” these days and you think about the pandemic.  I tend to think that, too, but this time the question is about something else: what’s next from an ethics perspective?

When it comes to ethics we generally believe we know the difference between right and wrong, and we are doing a good job (or we know where we’re failing short). We also think we know what the lines are.

But the lines do shift, and standards keep rising.

Outright racist policies were acceptable for a long time. Real estate often came with restrictive covenants prohibiting sales to people of color.

Then the world started waking up to that, and business had to relook at what it thought was okay.

Business reassessed, and thought it had a sense of what it was doing, what was right, what was wrong, and where it stood. Then the diversity, equity and inclusion movement made many rethink that assessment.

The women’s movement opened up a lot of eyes to how women were limited in their careers. Doors opened, and things changed a great deal, although quite arguably not enough.

But business had a sense of what it was doing, what was right, what was wrong, and where it stood. Then the #MeToo movement opened eyes a lot more.

Lest you think I am getting preachy and one more “woke” person ready to condemn others, I admit my own eyes have been opened more than once, often embarrassingly and mortifyingly so.

When it comes to ethics we miss a lot, sometimes because we choose to look away, but sometimes because we or society hasn’t fully thought things through, or we’re okay with something we probably shouldn’t be.

So those of us in ethics and compliance need to keep looking for changes in the ethical environment. They happen slowly at first and then seeming all at once. Standards rise.  Our minds are forced to look at the world in a new way. Sometimes that change is a result of a large social movement and sometimes by shocking things we see on the news. And sometimes by smaller, more personal discoveries.

But whatever the cause we need to stay vigilant because something else is out there ready to make us think of ethics differently.

If you think you have spotted what is coming next, please share it in the comments below or write something for the blog. And let us all know the answer to the questions we should be asking when it comes to ethics: What’s next?