12 December 2002 | Mark Whitehead
Businesses must ensure their values are maintained consistently if they want to protect their reputation, delegates were told.
Dianne Thompson, chief executive of National Lottery operator Camelot, told the CBI conference: “Values should be the same across the world. One of the greatest single criticisms of companies today is that they take western values and then go to the east and abandon them completely to get their products made more cheaply.”
Carly Fiorina, chairman and chief executive of US-based computer giant Hewlett-Packard, warned that instant global communication meant threats to business reputations were getting more serious.
But she admitted that corporate scandals in the US involving Enron and other companies had been a setback.
“The last thing you need is a lecture from an American on corporate governance,” she said. “We have at least as much to learn from you as you do from us.”
But she warned regulators and governments against over-reacting to these events. “I hope we don’t forget that business is about taking risks,” she said. “There is no way to safeguard every investor from every risk.”
Public ethics adviser Des Wilson said: “One of the reasons that the reputation of business is so bad is that it stands by and shuffles in an embarrassed way whenever there is bad behaviour.
“It’s no good business complaining the problem is a minority if the majority don’t speak out.”