13 February 2013

Dame Philippa Foster Back OBE, the President of the Institute of Business Ethics (UK) spoke about ethics to a Wellington meeting yesterday. Kensington Swan, one of four New Zealand sponsors of the IBE, provided the forum for Dame Philippa to explore ethics, related values and the commitment of organisations to integrity, openness and transparency.

Dame Philippa, who is the Chair of the UK-Antarctic Heritage Trust had taken part in the centennial celebration at Oamaru over the weekend marking the return from the ice of the remanent of Scott’s Antarctic expedition in 1913. The vessel had arrived off Oamaru on Waitangi Day 1913 from where a telegram about Scott’s fate had been relayed around the world. (Dame Philippa is a granddaughter of an expedition survivor.)

The presentation included an outline of the benefits of making ethical values explicit in an organisation;
• increasing staff loyalty, commitment and morale
• attracting high quality staff
• enhancing reputation
• facilitating a more open and innovative culture
• decreasing risks – and costs of insurance
• generating goodwill in the communities in which the business operates.

Dame Philippa indicated that the IBE advocated a three facetted process for establishing “applied” business ethics. This required identifying and defining core values and ethical values of the business. These are most commonly identified as integrity, honesty, openness, respect, fairness and equality.

These needed to be drawn up into a code – making a statement about “the way we work”. The code then needed to be embedded. This seems to be similar to the World Bank guidance adopted by the State Services Commission as the “6 trust elements” . The expectations of State Services agencies is that they –
• have standards,
• promote them,
• integrate them into the way the organisation works,
• managers model the standards,
• staff knowing there are consequences for breaches of the standards,
• organisations taking decisive action when breaches occur.