Business – be moral but don’t moralise
(This podcast was largely recorded before the Russian invasion of Ukraine)
What is the purpose of Hellman’s mayonnaise? And, what is the Magnum’s opus? The brand’s owner Unilever has made a strong bid over the last few years to be the poster child of corporate virtue. Its ESG agenda has interested and inspired many. And annoyed a good few others who recommend it gets down off its soapbox and concentrates on selling more Dove soap in order to shore up its share price.
Now more than ever businesses are expected to do and be seen to be doing The Right Thing. If they get caught behaving badly the reputational risk can be huge. But should businesses proselytise about the world and how they think it ought to be? Isn’t it the job of politics to frame the debate about important societal issues and form policy plus regulations to which businesses adhere? Or is business rightfully taking its important place to help sort the world’s problems – not least in the area of climate change and heading for Net Zero – by putting its powers of innovation and even creative destruction to work.
This podcast is about ethics and trying to do the right thing in a business world which is rarely black and white and more often shades of tricky, real-life grey. We have a leading sustainability consultant who was in the vanguard of Unilever’s ESG journey, a university professor of philosophy who encourages business leaders not to find engaging with ethics a burden but accept it as part of finding why your organisation not just exists but can find its place in the world as a properly flourishing concern. And our own Eithne O’Leary, President of Stifel Europe who has to put these ideas into practice at the sharp end of a financial services organisation.
This podcast interviews three individuals Angie Hobbs, Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy, University Of Sheffield; Sue Garrard, Fellow of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership; and Eithne O’Leary, President, Stifel Europe