n Management Dynamics : Journal of the Southern African Institute for Management Scientists - Institutionalising business ethics : a multi-level ethics strategy

Volume 11, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1019-567X



It is well-known that non-financial issues have financial consequences for a business. Many organisations recognise that there is a crucial connection between ethics and organisational success. They acknowledge that the passionate preservation of corporate reputation, respect for the preferences of ethically discerning consumers, and the protection of company assets against fraud and corruption, result in investor confidence and good business. Furthermore, these organisations recognise that the institutionalisation of business ethics is no longer a nice-to-have, but a strategic imperative. Instead of debating the point that business and ethics cannot mix, ethically aware corporate leaders continuously and actively endeavour to find optimal ways of creating ethical organisational cultures. The aim of this paper is to propose an approach by which business ethics principles and practices can be institutionalised.

If an organisation has chosen to make ethics a part of how it defines itself and how things are done, its ethics strategy should not only be comprehensive, but also pervasive. It is proposed that a multi-level ethics strategy, consisting of strategic, systems, and operational foci, be embraced, designed and implemented. The strategic focus consists of systematically embedding ethics in the corporate purpose and values as well as in strategic planning. The systems focus encompasses specific systems aimed at the formalisation, implementation, education and evaluation of standards of corporate ethical behaviour of the organisation's current as well as potential human resources. Interpersonal communication about ethics, making ethical behaviour a key performance indicator in every job in the organisation, and day-to-day ethical decision-making are facets of the operational focus. The three foci as proposed are analysed.

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