Ethical Discourse: The KBEI Blog
A space for thoughts and reflections on contemporary and perennial ethical issues.
We are happy to have Jeff Padnos, President of the Padnos Company, as our KBEI Fellow for 2014-1015. Periodically throughout the year he will be sharing some of his thoughts about ethics in business and how the Padnos Co., widely recognized for its progressive and community-minded practices, decides what the "right thing to do" is. In an industry where, as Jeff has said, ethical challenges abound and it's usually not good news if you're on the front page, they have consistently set a high bar for how business should, or could, be done. The following is an excerpt from a speech Jeff gave while accepting a business leadership award from the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce:
"On behalf of all the peope who work at Padnos, and on behalf of all of the members of the Padnos family, thank you. My grandparents, Louis and Helen, who came to west Michigan more than 100 years ago, would be very honored and appreciative of this award. They knew that our American free enterprise system was not something to be taken for granted. Not all countries operate as we do. They knew that first hand.
Their example and their appreciation for America helped inspire a basic value which helps to drive our business: We aspire to be a living example of how our feee enterprise system can work for all participants: our customers and suppliers, our employees, and our shareholders.
Many of our values and goals flow from this. Here I will mention only three.
1. Treat other people the way you would LIKE to be treated. Not the way you perhaps ARE treated sometimes, but the way you would like to be treated. It's an advanced labor relations degree in one simple sentence.
2. Welcome opportunities to help others succeed. if we have an opportunity to do something, or to take some action, that will help someone else be better off, we don't have to ask, "what's in it for me or us?" Especially not short term. It usually works out. Similarly, if there is some option on the table that would make someone worse off but would not improve our situation at all, why would we want to do that? This could be a useful guide for politics as well...
3. Make the Best Use of ALL resources. That seems like a natural for us. After all we are in the business of recycling paper, plastics, metals, and more. But as we say at work, if we see a piece of metal in the wrong pile, we don't throw it away, we get it to the place it can be most useful. If we go to all that trouble for a piece of metal or paper or plastic why would we consider throwing a whole person away? Making the best use of all resources to us means giving all people an opportunity to work, to live their lives, and to develop to their fullest potential. It is deeply satisfying, and it is good for business.
Why Business Ethics is a (Hard) Practice
“Can people really change?’ More than one student has asked me this after being confronted with a wealth of information from the biological and cognitive sciences suggesting that the ethical aspirations championed by various philosophies and religions, those moral guidelines that are the foundation for ethical business practices, are up against forces that often enough make a mockery of our intentions, our will. . . Read More
Would an Ethics Course Help? (Part One)
Hard to say what changes people. For the worse, power has always been the leading candidate, with money close behind. For the better, children, surviving something life-threatening, or a religious experience usually make the list. Other possibilities – and put them in the category you like – include travel, being fired, losing a parent, finding love, psychoanalysis, and the Red Sox winning the World Series. It’s rare that anyone will say. . . Read More
Would an Ethics Course Help? (Part Two)
In Part One of my reflection I suggested that while difficult, the teaching of ethics is certainly not impossible. So then, how to go about it? What might make some actual difference to students who come across these courses? And again, lest anyone think this is purely academic, in their 2004 report on the rather sorry state of ethics education in business schools. . . Read More
In a recent Vanity Fair article titled “The Man Who Crashed the World,” Michael Lewis (author of a number of justly celebrated books and articles on Wall Street) offers this telling paragraph: "How and why their miracle became a catastrophe, A.I.G. F.P.’s traders say, is a complicated story, but it begins simply: with a change in the way decisions were made, brought about by a change in its leadership. . . Read More
Page last modified November 8, 2014