ANALYSIS: BIG QUESTION; Should companies take a moral stand?

Social ethics are playing an increasingly important role in planning company strategy

Social ethics are playing an increasingly important role in planning

company strategy

David Rigg Camelot

‘Companies should take an ethical stance on issues which affect the day-

to-day operation of their business or affect the interests of their key

public. Major UK companies have a responsibility to be seen to be good

corporate citizens within the communities which support them.’

Terry Thomas Co-operative Bank

‘Our customers have stated clearly how their money should and should not

be invested. For example, the supply of arms to oppressive regimes is

one of their paramount concerns. I believe that, in the future, all

financial institutions will be called upon to justify their investment

policies on ethical as well as financial grounds.’

Locksley Ryan British Aerospace

‘Yes, but a stand must not be just emotional prejudice. The real issue

is not whether a company should take a stand but, does it have the

competency to do so? British Aerospace makes and exports defence

equipment. Every export sale must be agreed by the Government, as only

it has the expertise and international infrastructure to judge against

established criteria the suitability of a particular piece of equipment

in a particular country. Departure from this principle would be an

extremely dangerous step.’

Roger Hayes British Nuclear Industry Forum

‘As corporate citizens, companies have responsibilities - unquestionably

one of these is to behave at all times in an ethical and moral manner.

My own industry earns widespread recognition for its moral behaviour. It

is, for example, the only major energy producer that actually cleans up

after itself. I welcome the fact that, as consumers become more

discerning, companies will come to be judged on far wider standards than

those currently prevalent.’

Will Whitehorn Virgin

‘It is not possible for companies to play God about rights and wrongs

but they have to take a moral stand when sourcing products, for example,

by not using child labour. Virgin Atlantic also decided not to fly to

South Africa until it had a democratic system. But you can take a cause

to extremes. It ends up being counter-productive when companies are

being so moralistic that the media starts to think they must be

cynically promoting their own business interests. But the basic morals

of company life should start with a clear culture where employees are

discouraged from breaking the law.’

Edited by Rebecca Dowman

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