A new report has found that the ethics of corporate executives are at their worst when they are promoting themselves or their own interests, writes Mark Tromp.
“When an executive promotes their own business interests, it’s unethical.
When an executive advocates a competitor, it is unethical.”
Read more”This report makes clear that ethical conduct by executives is at its worst when these conflicts of interest are prominent,” said the report’s author, Professor John Harker.
“In short, it shows that when executives promote their own businesses, it may not be ethical to do so.”
The report comes after an investigation by the BBC into the conduct of the chief executive of British insurance company AXA.
The BBC report highlighted AXA’s aggressive advertising campaign to increase its business and the company’s aggressive lobbying of the British government in order to gain a £10.3bn contract with the UK government.
AXA had been a vocal critic of the Brexit vote in the UK.
In December 2016, AXA said that it would no longer accept contributions from foreign governments.
“When an employee or manager promotes their business interests or their company’s interests, they may not have to consider their ethical responsibilities when doing so,” said Harkers report.
“A recent study found that ethical standards in the US have improved since the 1950s, but not in Europe.”
In the UK, we have a history of high levels of ethical breaches in public sector organisations.
It’s no surprise that executives and senior managers are taking this to heart.
“In a statement, AXAs chief executive David Brown said the organisation has a long-standing culture of good corporate governance and a long tradition of ethical behaviour.”
The findings have been criticised by consumer advocates and politicians. “
Our board has a clear and consistent approach to managing our ethical obligations, and we are committed to maintaining our corporate culture and our practices, and ensuring that we have strong ethical standards and policies in place.”
The findings have been criticised by consumer advocates and politicians.
A petition calling for a ban on AXA was signed by over 300,000 people and the campaign has gained over 2 million signatures.
“We are all sick of these ethics scandals in the corporate world, but the fact that the CEOs of the world’s largest insurance companies are all so corrupt is really depressing,” said MP Caroline Lucas.
“This is a shocking indictment of the UK’s business climate and the role that companies play in society.”
Axa CEO David Brown told the BBC that AXA has a culture that “strikes a balance between what is right and what is ethical” and he is committed to a culture “that respects the right to have honest conversations, and that is not compromised by promoting or selling one’s own interests.”
In the US, there are signs that the US is starting to embrace the idea of a “code of ethics” that is meant to help companies to promote their interests and the public good.
The US Office of Government Ethics (OGE) issued guidance in June that outlined ethical guidelines for public officials.
“It is a positive step in the right direction to take corporate executives and their employers to task for ethical breaches,” said a spokesperson for the US Office for Government Ethics.
“But as an organisation, the OGE will need to examine the impact of these ethical guidelines on public officials who are charged with representing the US government.”