In the spirit of co-creation, we want to present our thoughts on a model for improving ethical behaviour. We would welcome your feedback and ideas.
At its simplest, ethics is about doing the right thing. We believe the key to that is behaving in accordance with certain core values across all the domains of influence a person starting with oneself. At Ethical Reading, our core focus is improving ethical behaviour in the workplace. At the same time, we do recognise that positive change begins with the self and this change applies in all the interactions we have, wherever they happen to be.
At Ethical Reading we believe that no one is born unethical. We believe ethics is like a muscle: it can be strengthened and improved through training. Our aim is firstly to inspire individuals that they can change. Secondly, we want to provide the education training and tools to enable individuals and organisation to improve their ethical behaviour. Thirdly we want to encourage people to collaborate with others to make positive changes in their families, workplaces, communities and eventually globally.
Ethics applies wherever we interact with our surroundings and each other. We can think of these in the following way as domains where we have (or can have, if we choose to) some influence. These domains, in order of decreasing influence, are:
- The self: we believe individuals have the capacity to make positive ethical choices which can have an impact on the self and all other domains below (assuming of course the individual is well both physically and mentally). This simple realisation and follow on action is at the heart of lasting personal change. It is also the driver for change in the other domains below.
- Family and friends: This is the domain where we have our most cherished relationships and with whom we spend most of our time outside work. In modern society time spent with family and friends has declined due to work pressures and relationships have suffered. It is important we use the precious time we do have to exhibit positive behaviours and encourage them in others.
- Work: Whether paid or unpaid, work is a major part of our lives. Making ethical decisions and behaving ethically positively impacts our work colleagues, customers, partners and the broader community. This is especially true if you are in a position of influence over others e.g. a supervisor, a manager or even a CEO. An ethical workplace is one where people feel they are treated fairly in accordance with core ethical values (such as respect and compassion, see below) and treat others in the same way.
- Your community: There are plenty of articles bemoaning the lack of community spirit and cohesion. However, this is not altogether surprising given the structural changes in the industrial landscape over the last 300 years. Many spaces where communities use to gather physically (common lands, pubs, parks) are disappearing and are being replaced by online spaces (e.g. Facebook groups). Research shows that cyber relationships are very useful but of a different nature to physical ones and cannot replace the former. In short, if we do want to drive greater cohesion in our communities we have to work with like-minded others to create social value in our neighbourhoods.
- The world: Globally we have many challenges (climate change, over population, lack of resources, war and strife in many regions to list just a few). As individuals what can we do? We can start by treating the Earth with respect. We are the result of four billion years of evolution sustained by our incredible planet and yet treat it as if there is no tomorrow. Being sustainable, as far as practicable, in our personal choices and practices is a good start. Working with others across the globe to build greater awareness and understanding of diverse cultures also adds to global social value.
These domains are summarised in the figure below:
So how do I as an individual start off on the journey to improve my ethical behaviour? We see a number of steps:
- Recognition that change begins with the self, one can change and that behaviours are not fixed. Respecting oneself and raising self-awareness are key to this.
- Acting on that recognition and doing activities that develop improved behaviours based on core values of respect, compassion, collaboration, social purpose, responsibility and action.
- Once personal change has started to make an impact, bringing those positive behaviours to the fore in your relationships at home, at work, in the community and beyond.
- Collaborating with others to encourage ethical behaviours more broadly.
Of course, these steps are not entirely linear and no one is a perfect exemplar of ethical behaviour, however these steps provide a simple pathway to improving that behaviour.