Check Your Business Moral Compass or Flounder in Deep Waters

10th May , 2022

‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that you’ll do things differently’ – Warren Buffett.

Organisations and individuals making poor choices in behaviour or expressed values will almost certainly lead to deteriorating business reputations. This decline can be severe, rapid and punishing in today’s viral digital and social media age, and may lead to substantial damage to any such organisations or individuals both in reputation and destruction of economic value.

Business leaders are seriously thinking about and changing their ongoing strategies driven by the last few years of enormous business disruption and evolutions, as well as the rapid adaptation in competitive behaviour. Business mentoring and coaching can assist with this, allowing you to identify factors impacting business strategies and business risk such as:

  • Supply chain disruption due to COVID-19
  • War events and sanctions with regards to the Ukraine and Russia conflict
  • Shifts in how people want to work (remote working)
  • Technology enhancements and disruption
    • Rapid digitalisation
    • Artificial Intelligence
    • Robotics
    • 5G roll out

Over the past few years, many organisations have suffered with sub-optimal reputations in the wake of rapidly evolving societal standards, expectations and viewpoints. This has resulted in many organisations and individuals being assessed as acting inappropriately. As a result of the inherent business risks of such events, the senior leadership of many organisations are (as part of general strategy development) reviewing their ethical and moral strategies and their related policies and procedures.

These reviews are to better ensure that their organisation and people behave consistently in the right way and in acceptable ways to all key stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, their own people, governments and the general public to the fullest extent possible.

What Senior Leadership Needs to Focus On

Senior leadership should:

  • Reassess (i.e. audit) their organisation’s ethical and moral positioning and behaviour to better ensure that the organisation is acting appropriately and is seen to be ethical and moral, rather than not acting appropriately
  • Review their moral and ethical policies, such as:
    • Framework for making ethical and moral decisions
    • Ethical sourcing
    • Inclusion and equality
    • Bribery and money laundering
    • Modern slavery
    • Non-discrimination
    • Privacy
    • Environmental safeguarding and improvement
    • Media handling on moral or ethical issues
    • Employment checks on character of new employees
    • Ethical use of social media by employees and senior leadership
  • Consider and implement the appropriate target culture, policies and procedures
  • Review the principles and tone that emanates from the top of the organisation through the leadership levels down into the hearts of the organisation
  • Consistently ensure that image, marketing, advertising, all forms of communication (including email, social media and websites) and media releases conform with the moral and ethical projected image that is consistent with good business practice, while also conforming with the organisation’s ethical and moral policies
  • Support detailed policies and procedures implementation to ensure that:
    • Acceptable behaviours and attitudes are in fact embedded in all of the people in the organisation
    • These policies and procedures have robust mechanisms to make corrections to behaviour and encourage compliance and improvements over time
  • Use established frameworks for thinking in this moral and ethical space:
    • These are philosophical moral and ethical approaches needed to help resolve any related problems or dilemmas that may arise, such as:
      • Resolving conflicts between shareholders’ expectations and external expectations
      • Deciding what to do when specific stakeholders’ views or expectations are at odds with the organisation’s or leadership’s policies
      • Deciding what to do when various key stakeholders have differing requirements and disagree among themselves
      • Cross cultural differences or expectations in what is morally or ethically acceptable behaviours between your own staff, other organisations’ staff or in doing business across other countries or regions
      • Critically assessing the business’s own ethical standards from first principles, i.e. not just using current thinking which may be misleading
      • Developing individuals to become better morally and ethically

Contact International Business Mentors to find out how a business mentor or coach can facilitate business leaders to better consider and address critical strategic business issues from a moral and ethical standpoint.


David Cartney, International Business Mentors.  April 2022.

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