Business ethics reflect the prevailing attitudes of society. These attitudes to a large degree, reflect the actions and behavior of those in leadership positions. This illustration from the cover of the June, 2000 Issue of the Ziff-Davis “Smart Business for the New Economy” was frightening to behold. Sadly, it has turned out to be an accurate portent of many of the “things to come” which followed its publication.
Modern high-speed electronic communication has provided us with an almost-instant awareness of worldwide events. There no question but that truth and integrity have taken a beating from avarice and corporate greed in recent years. While this behavior may not be unique in the annals of world history our ability to become more immediately aware of these unfolding events certainly is. It is sad, but true, that when government sets a bad example (no matter how perverse) it tends to endow such behavior with legitimacy.
The role of a business is to be successful and corporate officers and directors have a fiduciary duty to serve their shareholders. Remarkably, however, when ethical companies are compared with their unethical competitors the data clearly indicates that, in the long-term, it pays to be honest and fair in the marketplace. Ethical companies are more likely to keep their staffs, have higher revenues, greater increases in stock value and continue to exist.
Placing a client’s best interest first also makes good business sense when accompanied with integrity and truth. Unfortunately corporate leaders often have to be reminded of this.