2018 must deliver consistent business ethics

ETHICS CONCEPT

They say be careful what you wish for. I’d say be incredibly cautious about who you choose to work with.

We’re only two months into the year and already scandals abound regarding the abuse of power in the charitable and humanitarian sectors. Both instances centre on breaches of trust, and negligence within the context of ensuring everyone representing a brand is adhering to the same codes of conduct.

It began in January, with the shocking revelations that emerged from the Presidents Club Dinner. Female hostesses at the event were subjected to misogynistic behaviour that was nothing short of disgraceful.

Then February arrived, bringing with it serious allegations aimed Oxfam aid workers in crisis-stricken countries like Chad and Haiti. Vulnerable women being forced into prostitution or sexually assaulted by the very people who were supposed to be helping them through truly horrific situations.

Cynics may have raised a knowing eyebrow over the Presidents Club— a men-only event for Britain’s wealthiest where auctioned prizes included plastic surgery ‘for the wife’ promoting archaic levels of patriarchy? Big surprise. But when you consider the evening in question was designed to raise money for charitable causes such as Great Ormand Street Hospital, the story also becomes about betrayal and trust.

The same goes for Oxfam— not only are those in receipt of aid and humanitarian support told to place their faith in these workers, those responsible for funding those efforts are under the same impression. Nobody expects to hear that saviours have become sinners, yet this isn’t the first time it’s happened. See: the U.N. in former-Yugoslavian states after the Balkan conflict of the mid-late-1990s.

Let’s not forget the environment

On a different, but loosely-related subject, in December news hit that China was stopping the import of some recyclable waste products because they were ‘too hazardous to recycle’.

Stack of crushed colorful plastic bottles background waiting for recycle

Britain currently asks Beijing to deal with two-thirds of its total waste, so this calls into question the realities of what happens to the contents of our blue, brown, and green bins. We have been told these reduce the amount of trash sent to land fill or incinerators, but once the rubbish is offshore there appears to be few guarantees.

“Instead of confronting our growing problem with throwaway plastic at home, we have been shipping it off to places like China where it’s easier for us to ignore,” a Greenpeace spokesperson said.

In the true spirit of tragi-comedy, Environment Secretary Michael Gove admitted the waste nightmare was ‘something to which— I will be completely honest— I have not given sufficient thought.’

I’ll just leave that one there for now.

What should we learn?

Collectively, these disparate examples show that no matter what sector keeps you busy, it’s vitally important standards are maintained from top-to-bottom, left to right.

That could be ethics amongst full-time charity representatives working in deeply troubled overseas locations, or third party partners dropping the ball when it comes to the environmental credentials you’ve been publicly trumpeting.

Like I said, then, exercise extreme caution when choosing who to work with, because the public is rightly becoming much less forgiving of those who say one thing, but are responsible for acting entirely differently. Put simply, then, 2018 must deliver consistent business ethics.