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4 May 2021

£200 IN A

Why business ethics matter

This month I am looking at another of my 2021 hot coaching topics, which is business ethics.

The Institute of Business Ethics, IBE, describes business ethics as “the application of ethical values to business behaviour. Business ethics is relevant both to the conduct of individuals and to the conduct of the organisation as a whole. It applies to any and all aspects of business conduct, from boardroom strategies and how companies treat their employees and suppliers to sales techniques and accounting practices.”

The IBE proposes organisations have a business ethics framework that has a code of ethics covering key topics, such as those listed below: 

  • Anti-bribery & corruption
  • Corporate Governance
  • Fair competition
  • Human rights
  • Pay
  • Speak up
  • Tax
  • Technology
  • Treatment of employees

The IBE then propose that this code of ethics is supported as a framework through communication and engagement, training and reinforcement, leadership, supportive environment and speak up, risk assessment, monitoring and accountability.

Business ethics came into public consciousness with the growth of ethical businesses and movements such as The Body Shop, founded in 1976, and Fair Trade, which dates back 60 years. 

These organisations and movements have challenged the way we think about what we buy, from whom, and what we seek to know about the supply chain from which the products and services we buy have come. 

Such businesses differentiate themselves on their ethical position within this context.

Not all organisations make ethics their differentiator, but all should be ensuring that they have a code of ethics in place which guides the people associated with it as to what is acceptable/unacceptable practice and behaviour. 

I’m hoping everyone in your organisation knows the correct answer to the question “£200 in a brown envelope: Yes or no?"

As a coach, I am bound by my accrediting body’s code of ethics, which covers topics such as accurately identifying my level of coaching competence, respecting the confidentiality of my client’s information, being alert to noticing when my client is no longer benefiting from our coaching relationship and openly disclosing any conflicts of interest.

Coaching ethics are key and an area that was called into question in the banking crisis of 2007/8. 

In the book Where Were All The Coaches When The Banks Went Down? John Blakely asks why didn’t the executive coaches who were working with bank leadership challenge their banking clients more regarding what was happening at the time? 

The book has been updated and re-published under the title Challenging Coaching which proposes that coaching should be more than a cosy chat and that the coach/client relationship should also have an appropriate level of challenge to it to be effective.

So, why do I think business ethics will be a hot coaching topic for 2021? 

I think the pandemic has raised many ethical questions, such as, is it appropriate to lock populations down as a public policy? How well have people followed social distancing requirements? How have organisations managed home working? How have home workers behaved? Also, how organisations have behaved ethically during the pandemic either underpins or undermines public trust in them. 

Like many business adjustments that have had to be made during the pandemic, organisations should be asking did our code of ethics cut the mustard and if not, what do we need to do about it?

As always, I hope you found this blog thought-provoking and if you would like to discuss anything about it, please get in touch.

From the author:

As coaching is not an advice-giving service, these blogs are not written with the intention of proposing solutions to common leadership challenges. Instead, they are thought pieces with the aim of prompting the reader to think more deeply about the topic and reflect on whether it warrants further exploration, with or without a coach.

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