As a result of COVID-19’s tumultuous impact on the economy, businesses fell over themselves to demonstrate a higher “purpose” and show that they care about the welfare of their employees and the environment. Influential organizations including the World Economic Forum, the Business Roundtable, and BlackRock have decisively called time on our exclusive focus on shareholder […]
Last December, a friend of Ethical Systems—a Chief Compliance Officer at a major multinational consumer products company, whose expertise is second to none—sent us an email. He was curious to know how concepts from behavioral science and social psychology might help him build more effective programs. He asked us for books, articles, and videos that […]
This time last year, I traveled to Dubai to participate in the Global Future Council on Transparency and Anti-Corruption. The World Economic Forum’s Global Future Councils are an interdisciplinary multi-stakeholder network, grouped into specific themes for fixed terms, to tackle our most pressing global challenges. I was there along with a few dozen colleagues from […]
In February, Barclays Bank in the United Kingdom announced that it would end a staff-monitoring scheme after the Trades Union Congress accused the bank of using “dystopian Big Brother employment practices.” However, numerous American other companies have already adopted similar approaches, apparently without facing the same backlash. Last year, The Wall Street Journal detailed similar […]
In 2013, National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked a large volume of highly classified information to investigative journalists, inspiring a new generation of whistleblowers. Since then, we’ve all been given access to the Panama and Paradise Papers. Last week brought the latest revelatory data dump: The Luanda Leaks have provided damaging new insight into […]
Today’s hyper-transparent environment has given the public stunning opportunities to review internal communications from executives at leading companies and to pass real-time judgments on the strengths and vulnerabilities of their cultures. In some cases, as with Away, Google, and Facebook, employees are leaking Slack conversations, email exchanges, and recordings of staff meetings. In others, as […]
In considering external operating risk, it has long been clear that corruption and negative human rights impacts correlate keenly. Underpaid doctors who require bribes before they will admit your child to a hospital immediately undermine your right to health. When an earthquake collapses buildings and causes fatalities, further investigation usually reveals that bribes were paid […]
Interview with Alison Taylor, Director of BSR’s sustainability management practice
What are your main areas of research/work?
I’ve spent most of my career working in consulting roles, helping large companies navigate integrity challenges. These are becoming ever more complex, are not confined to a single department, and require difficult judgment calls at the critical intersection of risk, responsibility, and reputation.
Currently, I work for BSR, which is a global nonprofit organization that works with its network of more than 250 member companies and other partners to build a just and sustainable world. There, I saw the sustainability field attempting to tackle some core business ethics and integrity challenges, though from a very different angle than the approach taken by risk and compliance teams. Both perspectives are essential, but too many discussions and purported solutions remain separate, in distinct silos.
I see huge potential in a more integrated approach to ethics that incorporates ideas from both compliance and sustainability. The concept of a “culture of compliance” is strangely empty. It may sound obvious to say that corporate values statements must amount to more than words on a website, but the task of giving these concepts substance can be neglected. We still hesitate to question the dominant idea that all decisions to maximize profit are ethically neutral. And we still argue that a private sector organization needs a ‘business case’ for integrity, while expecting that the individuals within that organization should behave ethically. I argue that ideas taken from corporate responsibility and sustainability can provide both the direction and the decision-making frameworks we need to use when tackling today’s challenges in business ethics.