Opinion: Sea change in ethics cannot be stopped

It has been less than a fortnight, but it seems like an age since the musical highs of Live 8 and London's euphoria over winning the Olympic Games. Early last week Britain seemed swept up in a tide of characteristically cautious optimism, a tide which even extended to the business community.

Last Tuesday evening, around 1,700 of the great and good of British business gathered at the Royal Albert Hall for a spectacular awards ceremony to honour companies for their commitment to corporate responsibility. Business in the Community had certainly pushed the boat out: Gordon Brown, Prince Charles and Nelson Mandela, no less, talked from giant plasma screens about the power of business to do good.

Not surprisingly the event had a distinctly African theme. Marks & Spencer CEO Stuart Rose announced a supply chain tie-up with the Shell Foundation with the aim of alleviating African poverty, while Sir Mark Moody Stuart, chair of the G8 Business Action for Africa Summit, provided a link to the talks in Gleneagles. We were even joined by the African Children's Choir, which had appeared so memorably at Live 8, but this time mercifully minus Mariah Carey. It was heady stuff. The testimony of an African HIV-positive employee of BitC's company of the year, BHP Billiton, was undeniably moving. As my dinner companion so eloquently pointed out, 'the world seems to be suffering an outburst of ethics'.

What a difference a day makes - or does it? Because this tide of global ethics seems unstoppable, even by terrorism. The G8 has not made poverty history but its commitments are considerable, and Business Action for Africa is working towards a more sustainable future for the continent's enterprises and farmers.

Earlier on Tuesday I also attended BitC's annual conference. Although less glitzy than its evening event, the conference was equally inspiring in terms of the solid achievements of companies such as Boots, Serco and Gap in working towards merging their moral and fiscal responsibilities.

Significantly, in roundtable discussions, communications and in particular internal comms emerged as one of the major issues for listed, privately owned and public sector organisations. All of whom are cottoning on to the fact that working for an ethical company is a real turn-on for most staff, and that the opportunity to make a difference is one of the most effective recruitment and retention tools.

It seems that we really are all in this together - a realisation that, unintentionally, the perpetrators of last Thursday's atrocity have served to enhance.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in