Who is the Chief Ethics Officer?

Business leaders face many challenges; not least operating on a global scale in an increasingly resource constrained world. Their leadership also plays out in an environment where the employee and customer base is more socially engaged and more connected into social media than ever before.

There’s been much coverage in the press of Apple’s decision to audit suppliers in China, and that decision has been influenced to some extent by on-line petitions pressing for the use of ”ethical, fair and safe” suppliers. Although, it’s interesting to note that at this stage, there’s been no adverse impact on Apple’s share price.

That prompts the question how does a leader decide on whether a course of action is ethically right. The key issue is less about who makes the decision and more about how to shine a light on the questions about whether a proposed course of action is ethical.

We’d suggest that the CEO also takes on the role of Chief Ethics Officer, but he won’t be effective in that role without some external support. Research shows that the more powerful you feel when making a decision, the less ready you are to seek or take advice. When you next have a big decision about ethics looming; seek some outside views or risk making a flawed decision.

That brings us back to that socially connected employee and customer base that we mentioned earlier. Technology makes it easy for organisations to choose to connect with employees and customers to engage them in discussing and resolving ethical issues. The extent of involvement will depend on the particular situation, but without doubt the need for more transparency and debate around ethical issues is likely to grow. Yet another key leadership element where the challenge is to get the balance just right

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