14 May 2010

New calls for ethics and integrity : some useful definitions…

1 Comment

ethic and integrity

Under the initiative of TIGFI, Luxembourg Institute for Global Financial Integrity, a mini-conference conducted by Erny Gillen took place on the 27th April on the theme “Developing an Ethical Model in Finance”. Father Erny Gillen is Executive President of Caritas Luxembourg and President of Caritas Europe.
Among the attendees were people from any business sectors of the Luxembourg economy. It proved the global interest on that topic in time of crisis.

As part of the introduction, Erny Gillen raised an opened question : “are Ethics and Integrity a sign of time or simply a time for signs and symbols ?”. Indeed in the current economic turmoil, the business practices are questioned far more than when things go well. The periods of uncertainty are used to being a favourable stimulus for revisiting some concept, as well as reinventing oneself.

Erny Gillen exposed his own view on Ethics vs. Morality. Both refer to ideals. They help “measuring gaps between reality and ideal goals”.

But what is reality ? Certainly not the same for anyone. He gave the example of children playing with a chair. They alternatively use it as a chair, as a table, and even as a horse. So, within a very short timeframe, they are able to jump from a type of reality to another one.
The same phenomenon applies in business. Each actor sees the reality independently from the other. Measuring any gaps with ideal goals becomes then purely tricky.
It might explain why some business actors see the (their) reality as ethical and moral enough, whereas others appreciate it differently. “We have to build the reality”, Erny Gillen said … a reality that should be accepted by the highest number of people, I would add.

Erny Gillen came back on basic definitions : Ethics is “a scientific distinction embedded in philosophy”; whereas Morality is “an expression of personal or collective conviction and behaviour”.
On top of this, Integrity might be defined as moral conviction. Integrity in business is then the materialisation of a common moral view within the firm. But how to implement it on the day-to-day ? This view is used to hitting the professional approach that tends to manage it under norms only.
He recalled that any corporate declaration of intention not coupled with actions has no value.

In a visionary view, Integrity would be defined as “a consistent set of virtues”. For instance, having reasonable ambition (e.g. stay small, instead of growing business without any other goal that maximising profit) … or keep everything simple and transparent for getting everyone’s life easier. But does it match with an overall climate of competition based on unlimited growth ?

Erny Gillen did not provide any solution to build an ethical model, but his last words was clear : “the rules must change”, in other worlds we can not make finance more ethical, if we keep running business as usual.
I would say that this argument is far from being new, but it gets nevertheless more and more acute with the time being.

One Response to New calls for ethics and integrity : some useful definitions…
  1. If you haven’t got integrity you shouldn’t be in business.Having said that i know a lot of associates whose scruples aren’t what they should be and that is a by-product of the recession. Most people want to get on in business and sometimes to do that, you have to cut a few corners.I am not one for doing that myself. I consider what I do to be very important and integrity and trust are what allows me to do what I do. It’s the nature of the job I’m in, banking, that I have to show those characteristics and thankfully, I believe I am a decent and honest individual.Once you build up your reputation you have more chance to progress in the business world.

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