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 Gun instructor accidentally shot dead by nine-year-old girl with Uzi gun
- 2 Miley Cyrus' homeless MTV VMAs date, Jesse Helt, is wanted by the police
- 3 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 4 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
- 5 Homer Simpson has taken the ALS ice bucket challenge because of course he has
Kensington flat branded ‘uninhabitable’ by estate agent on sale for a bargain £600,000
Gun instructor accidentally shot dead by nine-year-old girl with Uzi gun
Miley Cyrus' homeless MTV VMAs date, Jesse Helt, is wanted by the police
Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
The 13 obscure UK laws you didn’t know you were breaking
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Jeremy Clarkson is a cultural tumour and needs to be removed, says comedian Frankie Boyle
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...
£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: A fast growing Financial Services organisation b...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + excellent benefits: Harrington Starr: An award-win...