A number of scandals have emerged recently involving high executive pay, aggressive tax avoidance, mistreatment and bullying of staff, mis-selling and polluting emissions to mention just a few. Decisions (often influenced by counterproductive incentive schemes) designed to maximise profit in the short-term are adversely effecting investment and hindering the long-term viability of businesses. Income disparity between the richest and the average worker is increasing while, at the same time, many who are doing essential, inspiring and valuable jobs are on low pay, with little prospect of improvement. Some of our public sector, social services and civil organisations have seen scandalous situations seemingly ignored for decades.
There are structural challenges too in our inter-connected world. Multi-national companies have become increasingly influential and powerful. Outsourcing to the cheapest supplier is helping to drive down wages. New business models including the “gig” economy, with their zero hours contracts, are on the increase. Robots and Artificial Intelligence, whilst promising great productivity improvements, also threaten the existence of many of our jobs in the short to medium term unless we find ways to accommodate this revolution.
Meanwhile feeding, housing and caring for the worlds 7.5 billion population has too often resulted in the reckless exploitation of the earth’s resources. Ethical behaviour requires us to provide good stewardship of natural resources in a sustainable way so that our children, and in fact all future generations, can enjoy the same breath-taking beauty, richness and diversity of this amazing planet.
Our vision is that society can be positively transformed by organisations with a deeply rooted ethical behaviour, who are strongly engaged with the local community and who act in a sustainable way. We are calling for:
- Organisations to empower their staff to be agents for change and instil ethical values into the DNA of the organisation.
- Employee happiness, well-being, respect and responsibility to be prioritised and embedded into organisations via a code of ethics and effective communications.
- Measurement systems to be installed to measure its social and environmental impact with the results communicated to all staff, other stakeholders and the community.
- A recognised ethical “champion” to be made responsible for ethical values in the organisation.
- Employees to never be asked to do anything illegal or unethical and where there is an effective and trusted internal “speak-up” and “whistle-blowing” system in place.
- Organisations to become strongly engaged in the local community and collaborate with each other.
We are starting Ethical Reading, a not-for-profit business, to help make Reading a better place to live and work by encouraging organisations and those who work within them to become more ethical in their behaviour. There are many moral and structural challenges ahead for society. But it is not just down to government, institutions and big business to meet these challenges although they have big part to play. It is we, as individuals living and working in Reading, who can provide some of the answers by arguing for better corporate citizenship within our organisations. It is we who should be demanding greater emphasis on ethics within our work-places.
Ethical Reading will encourage this sea-change via meetings, seminars, training and education. We will seek and support ethical “champions” who will argue the case within their organisation for a change in how we treat each other and the environment. We hope to encourage our members to be more ethically courageous in their actions and to encourage others to do likewise.
We will urge organisations to empower their staff to create an environment at work where people can bring their social values into the work-place. These strong ethical values will provide a framework for more positive actions and decision making.
This is Not an Anti-Profit Agenda
This is not an anti-profit agenda —to the contrary. It is vital that our for-profit businesses are successful and make a good and ethical profit to pay, via taxation, for all the services provided by the state. Profitable businesses, in all likelihood, will employ more people, pay better and provide training and greater career prospects. Profitable businesses are, on balance, more likely to be sustainable.
We believe there is already a movement towards a vision of a more ethical society. We want to expedite this spirit of our time.
Join us and help make Reading a better place to live and work!