Ethics in Business: The way to a more sustainable world

Ethical Leadership in Business 2017

ELB 2017

In business, it’s the very small, seemingly inconsequential, steps that have the greatest potential to lead to unethical business practices. The intense pressure in today’s work environment pushes many employees to ‘get the job done’ rather than caring about ‘how the job is done’. At a time when extreme challenges are posed by our interconnected, complex and globalized world, the ethical conduct of an organization and its employees is more important than ever, as stakeholders expect irreproachable business behaviour.

The Caux Forum Ethical Leadership in Business retreat-conference which took place from 29 June to 2 July aimed to offer a range of answers to the question: how to lead business in times of extremes? 56 business executives, academics and social entrepreneurs from 21 countries, gathered in Caux, Switzerland, to take part in this new event, hosted by the CAUX-Initiatives of Change Foundation and its partners.

During the three-day event, they had the opportunity to share experiences, exchange views and inspire each other. They were able to reflect on their understanding of ethics and to deepen their listening and trust building skills. The multisectorial nature of the event allowed them to enhance their professional networks and expand their contacts beyond the traditional business silo. ‘Foster ethical leadership’ was their call to action.


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Participants and speakers acknowledged that value-based decisions and actions are vital if businesses are to be credible and sustainable in the long run. In the opening plenary, Sabine Döbeli, CEO of Swiss Sustainable Finance, stressed the importance of responsible decision-making in business and the positive impact of values on the economy.  

Guido Palazzo, Professor of Business Ethics at the University of Lausanne, delivered a workshop on why good managers make unethical decisions. ‘The most important thing to do in order to become a good leader is to know yourself, which means understanding what values you stand for,’ he said and pointed out that everybody should have a daily moment of silence or meditation in order to connect to these values.

Andreas Bomann-Larsen, CEO and founder of the Norwegian investment firm, CARN Capital, affirmed that companies must focus on their core values and core purpose. One of the main components of their set of values, he maintained, should be trust towards all players.


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Many examples of ethical business models and value-based decision-making were shared, equipping participants with clearer guidelines to follow as they returned to their own contexts. One subject discussed was the role of business in advancing the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which seek to ‘end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all’ over the next 15 years.

Antonio Hautle, from the Global Compact Network in Switzerland, described the SDGS as a unique business opportunity. He said that businesses, together with governments and civil society, are called to be drivers of change towards a more sustainable world.

The event was part of a broader programme run by the CAUX-IofC Foundation in Switzerland, aimed at promoting ethical leadership in business and organizations.


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