Is Business Ethics an Oxymoron?

Peruse a few of the vast numbers of articles and resources at BusinessEthics.ca and decide for yourself and your organization.

One example of the excellent available information is Incorporating Ethics into the Organization's Strategic Plan summarizing a presentation made by Robert Finocchio, former president, CEO, and chairman of Informix Corp.


Management guru Peter Drucker was famous for asking his consulting clients the basic strategic question, "What business are we in?" To integrate ethics into the strategy, businesspeople have to add three more questions...

What do we stand for?
What is our purpose?
What values do we have?

...While ethics should be part of the company's mission statement, long-term strategic plan, public pronouncements, and codes of conduct, unless it is also a "cornerstone of the organizational culture," it will not be effectively integrated into the business strategy, he said.

To really incorporate ethics, he presented these "prescriptions":

1. Don't be in an unethical business in the first place...
2. Obey the law and spirit of the law everywhere you do business.
3. Articulate a complete strategy, including purpose.
4. Explicitly articulate values as a key component to the strategy. 5. Values must also be real, and must reflect actual behavior, especially among the organization's leaders.
6. Don't rely on auditors, ethics officers, compliance officers, cops, regulations, manuals, and audits as the vehicle to insert ethics into the strategy.
7. Emphasize principles more than rules. (This is the best way to be more demanding of the organization.)
8. Individual ethical responsibility and accountability are never trumped by some corporate or organizational imperative.There is no "my company said it was ok" defense.
9. Be totally transparent with your constituents, and make that part of the strategy.
10. Have a framework and process for the resolution of ethical issues.
11. Have the right organizational structure.
12. Have rewards based on the right metrics.
13. Make employee development part of strategy and make ethics training part of employee development.
14. Encourage all employees to be challenging and demanding in the ethical domain (of everyone in the organization, including the bosses).

Finocchio went on to offer two practical suggestions for implementing his prescriptions: making an ethics performance evaluation part of the organization's standard end-of-year assessment and creating a strategic plan ethics checklist for the coming year...In planning for the next year, the company would ask itself a series of questions, including:

*Is our purpose sufficiently well articulated?
*Do we face new legal requirements?
*Do we have new constituents?
*If we acquire another organization, how will it be ethically assimilated?
*Are our rewards structures appropriate?
*Is there any need to change the mechanics (constituent communication, employee training, organizational structure, issue resolution processes)?
*How will we measure our performance?
*Do we have new goals/objectives in the ethical domain?