Ethical business conduct: the holy grail?

By Andrew Gordon

Recent months have seen a series of controversies focused on perceived lapses in behavioural ethics by businesses in a wide range of industries. Combined with anxiety driven by economic uncertainty, these events have attracted scrutiny of the integrity of corporate behaviour — whether from boards, customers, suppliers, employees, investors, regulators, government, the media or the public at large.

The message is loud and clear: the world is changing, and with that change the expectations of a wide diversity of stakeholders have shifted. The resulting scepticism — even cynicism — over the intentions and conduct of business has driven a deepening breakdown of trust between business and society.

Against this background, the route to renewed trust is for business to be seen to be ‘doing the right thing’, for the right reasons. This is easy to say. But what does it mean in practice? How can a business deliver a commitment to doing the right thing across its entire operations, not just in the UK but in all countries and diverse cultures worldwide? And in an era when the integrity of business conduct is more important and visible than ever, is good business ethics the ‘holy grail’ that will provide deliverance? …

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