“The right time really is now”
Editorial from Mr Alojz Peterle, MEP, on the World Forum for Ethics in Business Symposium in Slovenia
Date: 14 April 2013
Publication: New Europe newspaper
How to prevent future crisis? What can we learn from today’s situation? Important questions for Slovenian and also world economy. We were searching for the answers to those questions at the conference Ethics in Business and Leadership, “The Time is Right, Now!”, organized by World Forum for Ethics in Business in cooperation with Fokus 2031.
Now more than ever it is the right time to explore new ways for business leaders to evolve leadership styles that are sustainable, yet profitable for their organizations.
Speakers – all of them well known in Slovenian business, media or politics – agreed, that human values and ethics need to be the core of any development.
As WFEB’s co-founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said: “Trust is the backbone of business. We have seen the flaws in communism, now we are seeing the failings of unbridled capitalism. It is time for humanism.”
Lack of ethics is big problem also in Slovenia. From the most perspective new member of the EU we became one of the candidates for the next bailout in the eyes of the international press.
Our main problem is never properly ended transition. In countries where the rule of law works, where reforms were started early enough, the impact of the crisis is less devastating. In the same EU, facing the same crisis, some are doing well and others are having serious problems. Among the latest is also Slovenia where managers of public companies obviously forgot about social fairness and common good. Instead their work became synonymous for clientelism, wild privatization and other unethical practices.
But as economist Jože Damijan said, unethical business practices are not sustainable. “Even the world’s biggest corporations have suffered heavy losses due to loss of reputation and trust that is very difficult to recover. The price of unethical business practice is very high for Slovenia. We do not only have a damaged banking sector but have also lost many years of economic growth,” said Damijan.
And the solution?
Better laws, more supervision and a clear value system, speakers agreed.Danica Purg, Director of IEDC – Bled School of Management, speaks about the “eleventh commandment”. “The main problem of the neoliberalism is the idea that everyone has the right to maximise their profits, regardless of the damage it brings to the others. Something like that in combination with the lack of personal ethical standards can be devastating. So maybe we should add a new commandment that says “you shall be honest doing business,” she said.
Lack of personal values and ethical standards is the biggest problem on the path to ethical business leadership. The Governor of the Bank of Slovenia Marko Kranjec pointed out that the lack of ethical standards can be partly blamed on the media for glorifying stories of instant success, without checking, what is really lurking in the background.
Another problem is that changing people’s behavior is not an easy task. When past crisis erupted, many of the world’s most famous universities started to offer courses in business ethics. But as we can see, that did not prevent a new crisis or bring ethics to business.
Values and the distinction between good and bad is developed at a very young age. Above all in the family. But also at school, as Slovenian president Borut Pahor pointed out. “I now believe that school should also educate for ethics and values. We cannot expect people to behave ethically if high ethical standards are not part of their personality,” the president said.
He also hopes that the latest crisis will change the society and the concept of market economy. “A modern market economy will have two pillars – profit and social responsibility. This will hopefully mean, that for the owners and managers in the final report, the way they work, and their attitude towards employees and the environment will be as important as the profit,” he said.