Doing the right thing
Sunday 23 May 1999
After all, the likes of Shell and Hewlett-Packard had espoused "values" for years and, while they claimed such cultures worked for them, there was not much sign of many rivals following suit.
Increasingly, though, business ethics is moving out of the shadows. Companies like Shell - which had an uncomfortable ride over its involvement in Nigeria and Brent Spar - and HP set out to raise what many perceived to be high standards and others began to see a business case in taking a principled stand. The Co-operative Bank, for example, claims that its ethical lending policy has played a key part in raising its profile and increasing its success.
It is perhaps surprising that the Co-op Bank's sister company, Co- operative Insurance Services, has not seen the opportunities for taking this kind of approach in its own area of financial services sooner. Announcing last week that it was launching a social and ethical audit, the organisation acknowledged that the pensions mis-selling scandal, in particular, suggested that all had not been right with the business sector's principles.
Though CIS has long adhered to the principles of community and social inclusiveness associated with the co-operative movement, it sees an opportunity to differentiate itself in a market that Martin Clarke, a marketing manager, describes as "characterised by arrogance and complacency".
He and his colleagues believe that by asking the organisation's 2.5 million customers what is important to them, they are approaching the area with "a bit more humility" and not presupposing that they always know what is best.
Of course, the nay-sayers always like to point out how companies that take this approach are not immune from the vicissitudes of business. Body Shop's recent problems have been well-documented and Levi-Strauss, another company noted for its attempt to push values up the agenda, was recently dissected in a critical Fortune article. But, then, conventionally- run companies do not always find it plain-sailing, either.
This new environment is well explored in Peter Schwartz and Blair Gibb's book When Good Companies Do Bad Things (John Wiley, pounds 19.50). But, as the title suggests, values do not guarantee a smooth ride.
"When companies have not examined their operations from a long-term perspective in a social context, they are much more vulnerable [to do bad things]," they write.
And they go on to propose that bringing this perspective to strategy development and operational planning will lead to social responsibility being looked at in a different way - and create many opportunities for turning the issue into what they call a "distinctive competency".
- 1 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 2 Greece debt crisis explained: A history of just how the country landed itself in such a mess
- 3 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 4 Greek debt crisis: Yanis Varoufakis's funniest (and most memorable) quotes
- 5 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
Greece debt crisis explained: A history of just how the country landed itself in such a mess
German conservatives are destroying Europe with austerity, says economist Thomas Piketty
Man dies instantly after shooting firework from top of his head
Isis schoolgirl Amira Abase who fled London to join terrorists in Syria mocks victims of Tunisia massacre
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sales?Do you have a keen interes...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...