• Sunday, February 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Good ethics is good business

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The World’s Most Ethical (WME) Companies designation recognizes companies that truly go beyond making statements about doing business “ethically” and translate those words into action. WME honourees not only promote ethical business standards and practices internally, they exceed legal compliance minimums and shape future industry standards by introducing best practices today.

At the second annual Christopher Kolade lecture on business integrity, held in Lagos recently, The Director General of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Arunma Oteh, disclosed that Nigeria ranked 132 out of 144 countries on a recently conducted study on ethical behaviours of firms. According to her, South Africa ranked 35, China 55, India 58 while Brazil ranked 107. On the issue of diversion of public fund, she revealed that Nigeria only performed better than two countries; Venezuela and Argentina.

According to Oteh, with the above result there is urgent need to focus on integrity while doing business in Nigeria adding that whether Nigeria is misunderstood and ranked lower than it should be, it must have a paradigm shift where it focused on proper conduct to become competitive and remain relevant to today’s global economy. Companies and public institutions must also imbibe international best practice in doing any business. Furthermore, she noted that integrity signifies wholeness of virtue, wholeness of a person, institution or society; it allures concept of purity, soundness and morality; and that trustworthiness, consistency in doing the right thing is what comes to mind once integrity is mentioned.

Many companies in developed countries are now seriously focusing attention on the issues of ethics and values, but lots of people think that it is a waste of time. The sceptics argue that you can’t teach ethics to adults. By the time they are in the workplace, they are either ethical or not. However, experts confirm that the purpose of a corporate ethics program is not to make people ethical but to increase the likelihood that they’ll act ethically. According to them, in today’s environment, failing to protect a company from employee misconduct is irresponsible. The objective of such programs is to establish a business culture in which it is easier to do the right thing than the wrong thing, and where concerned co-workers and vigilant supervisors repress illegal or improper conduct that can potentially endanger or embarrass the company.

Records show that some of the most respected and highly reputable multinational companies and Chief Executive Officers have been discovered to be grossly unethical in their business dealings. In fact in Nigeria, the activities of some multinational companies have been identified as questionable or even unethical because of the impairment they perpetrate on the society

As Nigerian companies work to improve on ethical behaviours, we believe that a firm that wants to strengthen its ethical culture hires for character and trains for skills; it takes background checks seriously, screens out employees who lack the moral compass or strength to resist temptations, and weeds out those who lack moral commitment or judgment during probation; and during performance reviews and promotions, it assesses ethical attributes like trustworthiness, responsibility, and respect; while only people who are comfortable living up to high ethical standards are retained or promoted.

Ethical behaviour is simply making good business decisions based on an established “code of ethics”. Hence, besides having a written code of ethics, companies should take the issue of code of ethics seriously; merely having code of ethics does not in any way reflect its performance and workability; the code of ethics should be effectively enforced and continuously monitored. Also, they should as a matter of importance improve the conditions of service of their employees, thus, providing an enabling, conducive and congenial working environment for the employees. Government should set up functional mechanism that will constantly check the state of employees’ management by companies in Nigeria. And the publication of top ethical/social responsible companies by a government institution charged with the responsibility should be done annually.