Monday, December 6, 2010

Ethical management has a market value

The conference that was organized by the »Forum on Ethics in Leadership« and held at the European Parliament, impressed me in a significant way. Not only because it dealt with a topic that is nowadays a probable key to the further development of our civilisation, but also because it brought together many thinkers, managers, leaders and young potential from around the globe in search of a new foundation for more ethical development and coexistence on the planet Earth. And especially because it brought together people who are at very different levels of ethical awareness;. in one place, at the same space. With a single purpose: to make a step forward towards global social prosperity, towards a life worthy of human kind and in harmony with the planet Earth.

“World Forum for Ethics in Business (WFEB)”:
• Platform for promotion and protection of an ethical approach to development of companies and corporations.
• Dialogue and cooperation between the private sector, academic circles, government agencies, international organisations, media, spiritual and other non-governmental organisations as well as other stakeholders, based on fairness, basic human values and with the aim of restoring public confidence in the business world.
• Development of responsible business networks based on exchange of views, experience and best practices.
These words might seem too ultuistic, or overambitious to you; you might say they will not earn wages or pay retirement benefits; you might find them inappropriate for this day and age. You may think the priority is to re-establish the economic balance. However, having attended this meeting I am even more firmly convinced there is no way back. We will never re-establish the old economic balance. The old systems are crumbling, and demand new structures. The space is filled with a critical mass indicating the need for change. The only question is, what the next evolutionary stage will bring.

A short summary of the messages of the solemn, serene and poignant Brussels meeting:
• A new social paradigm is necessary and is being formed...
• Changes are taking place at the structural and individual levels
• Global corporations that opted for systematic compliance with ethical principles are more successful
The transformation of business operations towards ethics and sustainable development is implemented through a strong focus of top management and through leadership by example
It is a fact that the current leading economic elite, is losing its structure of power; on one hand this is due to individuals who are increasingly more aware and aggravated, and on the other, due to systematic and persistent global positioning of spiritually broader and stronger structures that do not think about centuries or quarters of the year.

*“We need a new paradigm, a new type of leadership. We must rediscover our responsibility and dignity. This meeting is a small step forward…”
Mr. Nirij Deva, Vice President of the Development Committee in the European Parliament
“Without political will there is no economic growth. Abandoning of ethics leads to arrogance. I am unconvinced that a true will to change the system exists.
My proposal: establish global structures to prevent financial disasters, such as the current one…”
Amb. Jean-Paul Carteron, Chairmen and Founder Crans Montana Forum
(*) the quotes are my understanding of the speaker's key messages
The key topic of the two-day meeting was ETHICS (which was already highlighted by professor Tadeja Jere Lazanski, PhD, at the 2010 InCo Conference, see, Wednesday, 21 April 2010): the ethics of leaders and individuals who form the new social paradigm, - from ethics, to business, to social and state structures, civil initiatives, and back to ethics. This 5000 year old model of social co-dependency was elaborated on by Sri Sri Ravi Sankar in one of his appearances. Regardless of where in the cycle we participate and raise awareness, we influence all of its parts.

Initially, I found the conference confusing because I was unaware of the difference in understanding of ethics, which is a key social component. However, after the first day I began to realise that the greatest achievement was in bringing together so many different leaders, with diverset views on the essence and significance of ethics, to be sitting together in the same room. The aim was to be heard, to listen and to enable interstructural learning on the path of seeking new foundations and base topics for a modern society. I see the above as the biggest achievement of the meeting.

Signs of rebirth with respect to ethics in the corporate world came from various environments, such as Siemens, Unilever, Egyptian Exchange, Educom Solutinos and similar organisations, who supplement or even base their business models on social responsibility, either due to personal beliefs and a high level of awareness, or simply because they recognise that a business opportunity is paying off.

*“We always have a choice. I am managing a company with a strong foundation of social responsibility. This approach has paid off. The key importance is not in HOW MUCH profit you make, it is HOW you make it. Ethics pays off…” (V.B.: more than 10.000 employees in 27 countries)
Mr.Shantanu Prakash, CEO, Educomp Solutions limited
*“The Egyptian Exchange has implemented an ‘Index of Social Responsibility" for more comprehensive monitoring of companies. Egypt is now negotiating with the World Bank on how to transfer this model to the rest of the world…”
Mr. Mohmound Mohieldin, Managing Director, World Bank
*“Creating value for all links in the value chain has proven to be an excellent business decision. We have measured the carbon footprint of all our products. We have made a shift from value per share to value per shareholder…” (V.B.: this year's corporate award recipient)
Mr.Miguel Veiga-Pestana, Vice-President, Global External Affairs, Unilever
*“The implementation of an ethical business model following the 2006 scandal has paid off considerably. Siemens has never before been as successful as in the post-scandal period. The CEO’s public declaration that Siemens will never again resort to bribery in acquiring business was a key moment. It resonated with all our employees. Our main business focus is on eco-efficiency and social responsibility…”
Mr. Josef Winter, Chief Compliance Officer, Siemens AG
(*) the quotes are my understanding of the speaker's key messages
The audience exhibited enthusiasm and apprehension twice - when listening to the thoughts of two great men from the international arena who, in addition to the structures and systems of ethics, strongly stressed the role of the individual and the importance of understanding our emotions and actions at the level of personal responsibility. History teaches us that the most ordinary people often take part in the most horrific of crimes. The reason is a lack of understanding of personal responsibility and the consequences of own actions, including the broadest context thereof. Thus, the call for better understanding of our own emotions was correct and justified.

Perhaps the countries where ethics have reached the lowest point are the ones that can contribute most to the shaping of significant changes. Unethical behaviour of global corporations in Africa, Asia and Latin America is the responsibility of everyone who buys their products and thus supports their growth. This is an area where we can take action, while the quarrelsome and corruptible local authorities are perhaps a challenge each country will have to take on internally. This is an opportunity for all of us to understand what we are paying for when we buy products and services, or when we vote.

*“Our lives are directed by our inner worlds. This is the source of our thoughts and activities. Nevertheless, we rarely take time to consider our emotions. Lack of education about our personal emotions leads normal people to commit horrific acts. Crimes are committed by normal people…
Only education and awareness of every individual can lead to better quality of collective consciousness... Young people need role models...”
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Founder, International Association for Human Values,
(leader of the largest non-governmental organisation in the world)
*“Serious problems result from an imbalance between needs and responsibilities. Create leaders who will understand they are leading for the benefit of the society as a whole. We need steps and decisions that will create more happiness and content rather than fear among people…
The emphasis needs to be on the structures rather than individuals … we must always carefully monitor our behaviour and the essence of the structure we are operating in... In criminal organisations people strictly observe the rules; if not, punishment will follow; the rules of the structure itself are very brutal…”
Mr. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
*“In Africa, we have skipped copper wire communication and transferred directly to digital and wireless connections. Perhaps such a leap can be achieved in management style as well... Africa is tired. It is looking for a new paradigm, based on ethics. We rely on our youth…”
Mr. Dale Olujede, CEO and Publisher, Timbuktu Media (the only recipient of the Pulitzer Prize from Africa, this year’s individual award recipient)
(*) the quotes are my understanding of the speaker's key messages
Let me conclude this summary of thoughts from the 7th International Leadership Symposium on Ethics in Business with a few words from a former astronaut and current chairman of a corporation that develops engines for spacecraft, who said that “humanity probably won’t realise the beauty of Earth and appreciate its wealth until it sees it from another planet”. He also stressed, somberly and very convincingly, that our understanding of ethics starts within the family, i.e. the civil society that influences the values, which influence ethics in business, which influence politics, which influences …

*“Only when human kind moves to other planets will we understand the exceptional gifts of Earth and change it into a cosmic park where people will go on vacation…
Just look at the atmosphere today; over 20,000 objects are floating above us and many of them without a return ticket… Who is responsible for this?
Ethical principles are learned at home … we are bound by strong responsibility to transfer our ethics to our children…”
Dr. Franklin Ramon Chang-Diaz, President and CEO, Ad Rocket Company (7 space flights)
(*) the quotes are my understanding of the speaker's key messages
I hope this issue will help you identify your own ethical grounds and critically review and assess why and how you integrate them in your daily life, work and creativity. I found these two days very helpful. I am grateful to the organisers for the invitation and opportunity to become aware again of my inner beauty, strength and energy for future activities. Once we are able to look back through the prism of the new consciousness we will find many actions, decisions and initiatives of the past difficult to understand. Illegal and criminal behaviour will be subject to the rule of law in each individual country. The rest of us, citizens of our respective countries and inhabitants of Earth, have to decide how to act today and in the next decades and centuries. I know this might seem a bit farsighted, but it is actually very grounded. All social development starts with the decision of an individual. With the first small step that is later given meaning with the mass of the steps that follow in opening up the path for further development. I would like to conclude with a thought that was inspired by an old Chinese proverb: “A vision without action is futile; action without vision is dangerous.” I hope our long-term views will be supported by thoughtful actions and based on ethical principles. Let’s try, they say it’s worth it!

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