The broad subject of business
ethics has been highlighted over the past few weeks. For a start, there has been much unease surrounding companies that are believed to be avoiding paying their full and proper share of corporation tax in the UK. Starbucks was one of the companies under fire
and, as SM
went to press, it made a tax pledge following pressure from its own customers.
In an open letter on its website, Kris Engskov, managing director Starbucks Coffee Company UK, said on 6 December: “Today, we’re taking action to pay corporation tax in the UK – above what is currently required by tax law. Since Starbucks was founded in 1971, we’ve learned it is vital to listen closely to our customers – and acting responsibly makes good business sense.”
He’s not alone. Speaking at the CBI annual conference last month
Unilever CEO Paul Polman cited the growing power of consumer campaigns on social networking sites as highlighting the need for more ethics from business. Unilever has set a target of halving its impact on the environment by 2020 and Polman argued firms that strive to have a positive impact will attract consumers.
“I predict that over time, citizens will gravitate towards these companies and organisations that are making positive contributions, not least because their faith in governance is at an all-time low, but frankly because they see this as their only hope to address these challenges.”
That lapse of faith is not only in private sector firms. The latest Corruption Perceptions Index, which examines the perception of fraud in the public sector around the world, found the UK is struggling to remain in the top 20 least-corrupt countries as a result of ‘political scandals’. According to the survey by Transparency International, we have a thing or two to learn from the clean-living countries sharing the top spot: New Zealand, Denmark and Finland.
For more on business ethics, see SM
’s new sister magazine, Supply Business. Out next month, one of many features of interest to senior business leaders examines the ethics of buyers leaving their jobs to work for a supplier to their organisation instead.