Building a More Ethical Society

Dr. Purushothaman
December 13, 2013

The influence of modern global organisations has grown exponentially over the last 20 years. Domestic monopolies and global conglomerates have taken the role of "City States", a role that nations used to play in influencing society, and shaping the big decisions of modern times. Corporates have grown more powerful than any individual citizen, politician, president or monarch. They have a disproportionate impact on our tastes, views, food, clothes, and decisions; almost every aspect of how we live our modern lives are developed in boardrooms, and not in parliaments or courts. We ask... how do organisations know right from wrong? Is it the culture and ethics of the organisation that determine this? As a result of their unyielding influence, is it not important to society and the future that organisations are ethical?

Collective experience should be gathered to design, build and implement values based. Thus, we could flag the barriers to overcome, the potential pitfalls, and biggest risks to successful implementation. A model of addressing the current societal need of how to create ethical practice in our organisations, political office, etc. while bringing back purpose over profit and ego into focus should be introduced.

The loss of public trust towards large corporations (e.g. oil and gas, media, financial services etc. the list goes on), public servants (e.g. politicians and police) and religion creates a unique window of opportunity. Activist groups and academics believe this period in time provides a reformation type backdrop for societies around the world. We should focus on creating opportunities for new political philosophies to surface.
Concepts of service to society and servant leadership have grown in relevance as people search for alternative and traditional solutions. The world is more reliant on trust across boundaries than ever before and the BIG QUESTIONS of our time can only be answered through trust.
Technology and communication trends have enabled networks beyond traditional boundaries. Social networking sites, blogs and instant messaging allow people to exchange information and views quickly; as a result, culture ("how we do things here") is built through multi medium communication. When congruence does not exist, and people operate in this space without ethics, it exposes individuals and organisations to sabotage and risk.

The crisis in the financial services industry, media, politics, pharmaceuticals, police, the church, and food industry have generated much debate over the past two years. A lack of trust follows the individuals and organisations that have become powerful in society. Cynicism has crept into the fabric of society, and those who lead have been revealed as self-serving, narcissists who profit while short-term interests dominate priorities. The solutions proposed are to punish, humiliate, regulate or castigate. The media has talked much about the need for a new ethical culture. Little has been published on how to systematically achieve this.

It is a must that experienced professionals step in now. Sharing the experiences of working with values based cultures, they will minimizes theory, only referencing models as necessary to accelerate learning. Equipping management and employees with the ability to focus on integrated aspects (Strategy, Brand, Values, Purpose) enables organisational efficiency and effectiveness.

• Decisions are aligned and happen faster
• Less bureaucracy is needed to check if people can be trusted to deliver
• Employees speak up due to intrinsic motivation, providing first line of risk defense
• A more agile organisation responds to opportunity or threat
• Economies of scale are realized as employees work towards consistent priorities, and internal competition for focus is less tolerated

When aligned, this enables consistency of execution with external aims and if maintained, trust:
• Restores the belief in industry to self-regulate
• Builds reputation
• Acts as a safeguard for the management and shareholders against rogue behaviour
• Enables Brand promises

If successful, individuals can feel proud of the organisations they work for, communities they live in and we (society) will trust organisations to serve a purpose beyond profit.

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