© Frank J Navran
Ralph Waldo Emerson, in an essay entitled Self Reliance, first published in 1841, observed that: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by statesmen, and philosophers and divines.”
While transparency was originally defined as a matter of corruption as it existed in the relationships between businesses and governments, it has become a broader, more generic term in the past twenty years.
The Ethics Institute held its 6th annual conference at the Wanderers in Johannesburg in May this year and it certainly provided, at least to this outside delegate, an intellectual spark to ignite the moral imagination.
The Ethics Institute adopts the definition of organisational ethics as the balancing of what is good for the organisation with what is good for other stakeholders. As reflected in the Institute’s new corporate identity and logo, the definition is encapsulated in the classic ethics triangle (good, self and other).
Considering Ethics as an organizational behavior, it comprises of principles and values of individuals in the organizational context with a focus on individual and group processes and actions.
Why do good people with seemingly high moral values do bad things? Even people who can distinguish between right and wrong and make the decision to do what is right, often opt to do what is wrong.
Ethics management in the public sector has come a long way since its early days as part of government’s anti-corruption initiatives. The requirements for promoting ethics in the public service are nothing new. The Constitution refers to the values of Public Administration and the Public Service Code of Conduct requires heads of department to promote ethical behaviour. There might however initially have been a sense that these things would take care of themselves.
KISS is an old and familiar acronym that was once quite popular. It lost some of its attractiveness when “political correctness” started to constrain our word choices – when implying that our colleagues were “stupid” began to be frowned upon. Respect for each other has become a “core value” in nearly every organization and suggesting that one’s colleagues and/or employees (individually or collectively) are stupid is not respectful.
Eleven years of experience in applied Business Ethics in the public and private sector have sensitized me to the responsibilities of organisations to not only care for their internal and external stakeholders, but also the society and environment in which they operate. Although more and more corporations realise their responsibility for their actions and its impact on all its stakeholders, there are still those who either do not ask the degree of harm their activities can cause to the environment and societies, or seemingly do not care.
In January this year Liezl Groenewald attended a Summit on Military Ethics in Canberra, Australia on behalf of the Centre for Applied Ethics at the Stellenbosch University. She represented Sub-Saharan Africa. The Summit aimed to establish a core group of ethics centres based in top-tier regional universities which work in the field of military ethics or have the potential to do so. Japan, Hong Kong, the USA, Chile and the UK were also represented by potential and top military ethicists.
Caveat emptor is Latin for "Let the buyer beware". It refers to a contract law principle mostly applied in the real estate industry, but may also be used to selling of other products and services. The phrase caveat emptor arises from the fact that buyers typically have less information about what they buy, while the seller has more information.