Creating Ethical Business Leadership

One of the fascinating talks that I had the opportunity to attend last month was the USB Leadership Talk at USB Tygerberg campus on the changing role of business in society.

There are many challenges in the world needing to be addressed. Some that are I believe important are:

  • Income equality (Gini coefficient)
  • Pollution (Global warming)
  • Healthcare (Universal healthcare- NHI)

There is the Voluntary “UN Global compact” and 8000 companies from 140 countries are members and signed up to drive a more ethical, transparent and corruption free society.
Professor Oliver Williams, who presented the talk, teaches Ethics and works with many large international corporations. He used a number of examples from his work. One that stuck out for me was the story of how Coca Cola delivered drugs and transported healthcare workers into rural areas, along with their products. When asked why? Coke Cola replied “Sick people don’t buy Coke”. What a great answer and insight.

We all know that the purpose of business is to create sustainable value for each of its stakeholders. Business has management skills. Business gets things done. However, there is also a responsibility on business to transfer skills. Peace through commerce is a new and growing concept worldwide.

Purpose of various professions is clear and is namely:

  • Doctor – Heal patients
  • Lawyer – Seek justice
  • Teacher – Educate students
  • Business – Create value

Issues to review: Conceptual Foundations going forward

  • Corporate citizenship and changing consumer
  • Worker expectations
  • Purpose of the company a moving target.
  • We need to move from corporate social responsibility to value creation for all corporate stakeholders, led by men and woman of character.
  • Regulation is not the answer and the cost for adherence/compliance is high.
  • We need men and woman of ethics in business and Government.
  • Management education is a normative endeavour.
  • We all live better because of Innovation and businesses enhancing it.

Edelman Trust Barometer measures Trust in business, government, NGO’s and Media across 25 countries. Sadly South Africa has moved from neutral to distrust.

I strongly believe that every citizen has a role to play to bring ethics and honourable behaviour back into society and all its sectors – business, family, government, communities and society at large.


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