As I write this blog the youngest of my brothers, Ricky, is teaching an Ethics class to Joey Essex that is being filmed as part of the Educating Joey Essex series. We had a chat about his lesson plan for ITV at the weekend and it got me thinking about Ethics in Business, Ethics in FM and Ethics in Recruitment.
The definition of ethics is “moral principles that govern a person's behaviour or the conducting of an activity”. So are the ethics of an organisation merely the sum of all the individuals that work there and dependent on the individual’s moral compass or should an organisation have it’s own clearly defined moral principles? Are they set by the board or the employees?
“The World’s Most Ethical Companies® program honours companies that excel in three areas – promoting ethical business standards and practices internally, enabling managers and employees to make good choices, and shaping future industry standards by introducing tomorrow’s best practices today. Interestingly JLL is the only FM company on the 2016 Etisphere list. Sodexo had a listing previously but are missing from this year’s list.
Read the full article here: http://www.fm-world.co.uk/news/business-news/fm-firms-among-worlds-most-ethical-companies/
After ‘much googling’ I thought that the following definitions taken from an article published by FM link was one of the best on the internet. There were many more highbrow and philosophical debates that are well worth a read but for our current purposes this definition is more than sufficient.
What Does It Mean to Be "Ethical?"
When we hear the word ethical, several ideas come to mind, most notably good (versus bad) and right (versus wrong). Six concepts form the foundation of trust upon which ethical business practice is built:
Ethics: Ethics refers to a set of rules that describes what is acceptable conduct in society. Ethics serve as a guide to moral daily living and helps us judge whether our behaviour can be justified.
Values: Values:are defined as the acts, customs, and institutions that a group of people regard in a favourable way.
Morals: Morals are a set of rules or mode of conduct on which society is based. Certain moral elements are universal, such as the laws forbidding homicide and the basic duties of doing good and furthering the well-being of others. Morals and ethics are very similar; both pertain to society's ideas of right and wrong.
Integrity: To have integrity is to be honest and sincere. Integrity is defined as adhering to a moral code in daily decision making. Integrity Put simply, when people and businesses possess integrity, it means they can be trusted.
Character: Character drives what we do when no one is looking. Each person has the ability to build, change, or even destroy his or her own character. We can build our character through the way we live—by thinking good thoughts, and performing good acts.
Laws: The law is a series of rules and regulations designed to express the needs of the people. It is worth noting that an illegal act can be ethical. One of the most famous examples is Martin Luther King, Jr.'s violation of the law with marches and sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement fight against segregation.
These six concepts - ethics, values, morals, integrity, character, and laws - form the foundation of ethical business practices.
So now we understand what ethics mean in a business context I set about finding out who are the most ethical companies and how many FM companies and how many of clients are considered ethical.
My best friend Google helped me out again, and the first thing that came up was a list of the top ten least ethical companies. Interestingly (and I won’t name and shame them here!) the companies on the list are large global businesses who are household names and brands, so being on that list doesn’t appear to impact on their bottom line. So why should they be more ethical if consumers are engaging and supporting them anyway? Is it apathy on the part of the consumer? Or is it consumer ignorance?
I must admit that I most definitely can wear both the ‘apathy’ and ‘ignorant’ labels. I was born in the 70’s and was interested in cosmetics and ‘smelly stuff’ in the 80’s (I needed a lot of products for that perm!). This was the time when Anita Roddick was one of the few female business leaders and when The Body Shop was championing their cruelty free cosmetic and toiletry products
I signed all the petitions at university against animal testing and cruelty free campaigns and thought that cosmetics and toiletries that were tested on animals were consigned to the last century.
Ethics and good practice is something that is very important to all the Talent FM team and in one discussion in the office one of my staff shared a website with me http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/. Imagine my surprise to see that The Body Shop products that for 25 years I had believed to be ethical products scored low on this list. I was ignorantly thinking that because they were ethical in the 80’s The Body Shop would be ethical now.
The moral of the story being get informed, find the information that you need and make your own buying decisions if ‘being ethical’ is important to you.
For those that are interested in being a more conscious consumer I highly recommend running some of the products on your next shopping list through this site; you will be surprised I am sure.
Ethics in FM
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a resource like this consumer site for FM’s to confidently and quickly source ethical suppliers and providers? But in order to for that to exist we would need to agree parameters and benchmarks by which to measure and compare.
Is it having organic and local produce in your catering offering? Is it using apprentices and social enterprise schemes wherever possible? Is it using environmentally friendly cleaning products?
Even if the industry could agree and such a list existed, would such a list ‘trump’ the bottom line.
So in a hypothetical scenario the FM World Buyers Guide & The IFM Suppliers Guide gave each entry a score based on which end of the ethical spectrum they sit; What weight would you put on their ethical score? Would your Finance Director accept you choosing a company because they are ethical if they were more expensive than the competitors? Would you pick that battle?
As FM’s you have significant purchasing power and influence and perhaps you work in a company where an ethical supply chain would be important to your board, but my view is that those boards would be in the minority and could only justify a reduction in bottom line profit to any shareholders if being ethical was a hugely important part of that company’s DNA.
So I started to research how far the FM industry had got in considering ethical matters. FM World wrote an article last year about ethical companies.
I also found something called The Fairplace Award. This was developed by the UK property charity the Ethical Property Foundation and the standard allows companies to put forward evidence of their concrete commitment to people in the building, and the community around the building as well as the environment for which they receive the standard.
The standard itself consists of a series of guidelines designed to encourage greater collaboration and alignment of policies and practices across finance, procurement, HR, and FM – with a view to boosting the organisation’s wider sustainability credentials.
This is more like it I thought, some ‘joined up’ thinking on this matter across businesses – this sounds like a great idea - Regrettably there appears to only be 5 awards in the past 2 years.
My conclusion is that the FM industry may have an appetite for ethics but the concept is not high on priority list and there seems to be a very, very long way to go. I wonder how ethical the recruitment industry is. Would it fare any better? But I’ll leave that for another blog on another day. I am sure it will make interesting reading so watch this space!
And for anyone that is interested the Joey Essex show aired on 25th August – you can probably catch it on the ITV Hub catch up service.
Read our most recent article on Business Ethics here - Evaluating the nature of business ethics in practice