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Untangling the Confusion Over Organizational Ethics

This article was first published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (Summer 2013).  A wave of ethics transgressions underlines the importance of comprehensive ethics oversight for organizational success. Last year, 2012, was in many regards a step forward for proponents of ethical action. Roger Gifford, the Lord Mayor of the City of London, one of the world’s financial capitals, declared business ethics a priority and critical to the City’s economic success. François Hollande published a Code of Ethics within 11 days of becoming president of France. And the new Chinese premier, Xi Jinping, highlighted the ongoing danger of corruption to economic and social development as a central part...

Curing the British National Health Service with Two Words?

The recent press storm detailing ethical failures within the NHS highlights the oversimplification (to two words) and under analysis (in two words) of the ethics challenge. This blog focuses on those two words: “moral purpose”. The key question is how will this “moral purpose” result in more ethical decision-making throughout the NHS but within the context of the NHS’ reality? Calling for a moral purpose is useful if it is shorthand for calling for on-going comprehensive ethics oversight and not a one-shot tagline. For the moment, the prescription is for these two words (with a code of ethics and dismissal...

Missing the Point: Lessons From Novartis: Shareholders Win the Compensation Revolt but Lose the Ethics Revolution

The actions and commentary surrounding the recent shareholder revolt over the proposed $78 million payment to departing Novartis Chairman Daniel Vasella offer a range of ethics and governance lessons. These are critical across all sectors from corporate to non-profit to governmental. My purpose is never to attack an individual leader, an organization, or commentators. My intent here is learning, especially as it seems inconceivable that this kind of situation could continue to occur following the relentless say on pay and other ethics events of 2012. (more…)

Pause for a While

Yale Professor Thomas Pogge admonishes us to “pause for a while and reflect on what it would be like to live on [$2 per day], equivalent in 2012 to $16.50 per week or $71.70 per month or $860 for the entire year…” and to “ask yourself whether you would consider such an existence to accord with what is affirmed in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that ‘…everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being of himself and of his family…’.” Professor Pogge then reminds us that this $2 per day...

Lance Armstrong Part II: “Winning at All Costs”: Organizational Doping or Strategically Integrated Unethical Behavior

Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey this week reinforced his driving objective of “win at all costs”. However, the question that Oprah never directly asked during her provocative discussion was whether he ever thought he had really won when accepting the trophies after so intentionally and consistently cheating. There was not a single Tour de France race that he actually won clean. (more…)

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