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Make corporate ethics a business buzz word

By Hemalatha Ramasubramanian

Corporate ethics is a stylish word today and everybody pronounces it as if it is a household name. The reasons for corporate ethics as an important value to a business may be many. The most important of appears to be awareness among business community and the other is that corporate has understand the most important rule of the game ‘Together we stand’ they have formed associations in the best interest of members which can lobby their cause and express their views. These associations not only help them come together to face their common challenges, they also prove to be excellent platforms where new ideas of managing businesses are disseminated. People enjoy the company of their peers and also work out solutions for their problems. To cite an example: when tragedy struck in 2008, after the fall of Lehman Bros, and the Indian banks reduced lending and the capital availability shrunk caused by falling demand, all businesses were looking at cost cutting measures.

At Faridabad Industrial Area, a number of small players were wondering how to reduce cost. One of them came up with an idea which goes like this: they were all using particular IT software for managing their inventory cash and working capital. They all paid a substantial subscription for the same. The system was not utilized by all of them fully. They all decided that one of them would install it and rent it out to others based on number of hours used. This would help all of them and many of them could cut costs to a significant level. This made the software company who was a local developer to provide the same service on hourly rent with a substantial reduction. Revenues increased for both the provider and the user.

What is corporate ethics?
Business or corporate ethics is based on broad principles of integrity and fairness and focuses on internal stakeholder issues such as product quality, customer satisfaction, employee wages and benefits, and local community and environmental responsibilities -issues that a company can actually influence. Is cost reduction and survival also an important part corporate ethics? As business goes through the ebb and fall of economic cycle has to learn to swim above the waves and come out successful not only to care for its customers but also its employees. Hence building and maintaining a sustainable business model is an important business ethic. This extends to sustainable resources especially human resources. It is the human beings who make or mar an organization. More than just paying employees for the work done by them does not mean ethical practice. Ethics, like democracy, is a lot easier in theory than in practice. Many organizations look for ways to make their employees happy. There is a need for development of an individual at workplace not only to increase productivity but also to bring about peace and well being in an organization. This borders on spirituality at work place as a strategy for businesses. An organization that aims at fostering spirituality at work place, need to understand the true meaning of the phrase as it helps in building a sustainable society.

Edward Ericson defines spirituality as “Ethical Humanism is primarily an attitude about human beings, their worth, and the significance of their lives. It is concerned with the nature and quality of living; the character and creativity of our relationships. Because of this concern, humanism spontaneously flowers into a spiritual movement in its own right”.

India is a land of spirituality where a number of gurus and saints have taken birth and spread their knowledge, enlightenment and divine presence among the public from time to time. But modern day society is very different where everyone expects transparency and private space. Offices or work place is considered to be unique where people work together with an organizational purpose which is considered more important that personal or individual purpose. People are expected to be professional in their communication with their colleagues and bosses and avoid personal relationships and communications. Although this is impossible to achieve and expectations vary between organizations, ethical leaders do spend a major portion of their time in professional enhancement.

What is the purpose of ‘Spirituality in the workplace’? when this topic is discussed many are inhibited from discussion by the cultural attitude that ‘it is wrong to impose one’s values on another’. Some religions even portray work as a punishment and most recommend avoiding entanglement in worldly affairs. Human beings typically spend around 90 percent of their waking hours on work, community and in the home and only the remaining 10 percent are spent on personal activities such as prayer, hygiene, eating, exercise etc.

But business leaders advocate values, ethics and ethical practices for business. These are even considered as a formula for achieving personal growth, and fostering ethics in the workplace. Business leaders and management gurus believe that spirituality of the workplace must help to define work, process of dealing with others at work, balancing work with the rest of life, differentiate between right and wrong and prescribes ways to maintain – and sometimes change the workplace.

Spirituality can also be considered to be creativity and service. Religions generally prescribe certain appropriate spiritual practices, or disciplines, that are highly appropriate. Properly done, they raise the practitioner’s consciousness of divine presence and increase commitment to make the world a better place. Some of these are just suggestive and not compulsory. Organizations should provide freedom to employees to:

Decorate their workstation with personal reminders of values and beliefs. These need not be overtly religious objects but may be unobtrusive and uniquely personal in meaning.

Living with imperfection: One must understand and accept errors. Many errors can interfere with our service and be a cause of harm to others. The effort to eliminate all errors by striving for perfection can, prevent people from completing tasks on time – or at all.

Striving for quality: Even though many firms strive for quality, few view it as a spiritual practice that enhances the service provided.

Giving thanks and congratulations: Incentive programs become spiritual when they move beyond productivity enhancement to a goal of recognizing the dignity and value of every employee.

Building community through welcoming and support. Involvement in the surrounding community is one way of enhancing service.

Another way of fostering human resources is accepting and enabling innovativeness of employees. Innovation takes its birth from compulsion. Unless there is a necessity to innovate a human being does not think of newer ways of doing a job. it is said that a sewing machine was discovered as the ailing inventor wanted to build something to help his wife to do a faster job of stitching as she was earning their bread for their family. It was the compulsion to move faster that made man invent the wheel. Although an organization cannot force people to find new products, they can always accept and encourage employees to innovate and improve productivity.

An organization may also provide freedom at workplace for employees to work on projects of their choice. While any new project is put up, and there are changes in the organization structure, they can ask all employees their choice of position in the new organization structure and why they feel they feel they are suitable for the new assignment. This along with an employee appraisal can be a basis for decision making.

In conclusion, corporate ethics is more about how an organization deals with its employees – the internal stakeholder as much how they deal with their customers – the external stakeholder. Businesses being corporate citizens, donot work in a vacuum. They work with and for human beings.

The author is an eminent economist and columnist