The purpose of a business is clearly to make money. Its main goal is not to be philanthropic and humanistic. Yet just as economic capital makes a business run, so does human capital. But how should the human capital be managed?
In search of lost ethics
All the talk nowadays about ethics is nothing new. Aristotle subdivided “the science of man” into three specific categories: economics, politics and ethics. He defined ethics as the science of the self-centred man in search of moral rules to guide his life. In 1776 Adam Smith separated economics from morality in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, the first modern work on economics. This could be considered the birth of business ethics.
Nowadays, with an economic and social model in crisis, society feels a need for drastic change. The challenge for many businesses around the world is to find a new way to reconcile economic growth, improvement in the standard of living and respect for the environment.
Everyone’s been talking about ethics, but what does this really imply?
You have surely noticed the trend: Most companies create, display and advocate “ethical charters”, and promote their corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies. Senior management and human resources (HR) are apparently adding greater emphasis to the human side of employee relations. Mind-sets seem to be changing like an ocean tide. We may be witnessing a real resurrection of ethics. Then why is this not always obvious at the grass roots level?
According to a recent study, only 6% of French people claim to be actively involved in their company. The holy grail of business—performance—does not square with a tyrannical management style. Ethical management implies respect for the individual and for his or her integrity. An individual must become a self-realised before being a committed employee. Isn’t ethical management really all about respecting the individuality and uniqueness of the employee?