From left: British High Commissioner for Sri Lanka and the Maldives James Dauris, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Thilak Karunaratne, KPMG Sri Lanka Country Manager Reyaz Mihular and Equal Ground Executive Director Rosanna Flamer-caldera at the event
Pic by Kushan Pathiraja
BY Kamanthi Wickramasinghe
Business or corporate ethics examine ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that arise in a business environment. Business ethics refer to the contemporary standards or sets of values that govern the actions and behaviour of an individual in the business organisation. Today’s corporate world encourages people from diverse backgrounds to engage in various initiatives that would drive their companies forward. Future corporate leaders are a target group within the corporate sector and they are consistently groomed to make a change in whatever the industry they are employed in.
Importance of ethics in business
Ethical behaviour and corporate social responsibility (CSR) can bring about many significant benefits to a company. As such it could attract customers to purchase various products, thereby boosting sales and profits, increase productivity and reduce costs, attract more employees to work for the business, reduce recruitment costs, attract investors and keep the company’s share price high.
The reputation of a business in the surrounding community, among other businesses and individual investors, is paramount in determining whether a company is a worthwhile investment. With consistent ethical behaviour comes increasingly positive public image, a key point of attraction for investors and shareholders.
‘JCI BIZMEET 2016’ is acknowledged as Sri Lanka’s first-ever professional networking event aimed at empowering young business leaders with the tools required to consistently make ethical decisions even under the most challenging environments.
The event was held with the participation of British High Commissioner for Sri Lanka and the Maldives James Dauris, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Thilak Karunaratne, KPMG Sri Lanka Country Manager Reyaz Mihular and Equal Ground Executive Director Rosanna Flamer-caldera. The key topic of the evening was ‘The importance of businesses in Sri Lanka: Driving ethics for a sustainable economy in the country’.
Ethics increase the corporate value in businesses
In his opening remarks Dauris said that ethics are important when taking a business forward.
“I have worked with a lot of different companies and ethics are always important in driving a business forward. The definition of economic sustainability is the ability to support a defined level of economic production indefinitely. On the other hand, the concept of social sustainability looks at the ability of a community to develop processes and structures which not only meet the needs of its current members but also support the ability of future generations to maintain a healthy community. In such a situation, ethics have a bigger role to play.
Ethics are a set of moral principles that govern a business and they contribute in establishing economic and social sustainability. The existence of ethics in a business increases the corporate value in the long run. Ethics was firstly introduced in the 1960s and even since then companies incorporated this ethics element into their corporate structures. Unethical behaviour of employees would lead to lack of CSR comparison within the respective industry and would negatively impact on the company.
Large corporate bodies need to take care of their customers. Ethical businesses are important to modern Sri Lanka. Companies need to include employees with diverse backgrounds, cultures and even sexual orientation for that matter. We expect to see this not only in the outside society but within companies as well.
If we exercise social sustainability, we can move closer to reconciliation but we have to commit ourselves to fight corruption. Corruption is a major concern within the corporate community. Therefore, we need our leaders to set the turning point in the corporate sector. Finally, I would like to conclude by stating that we need to engage within the right value systems in order to stand out as entire businesses.”
Ethics is directly involved in maximising market profits: Karunaratne
Karunaratne emphasized on how ethics should be implemented in day-to-day lives.
“Ethics is a precept that I personally cherish. There has always been a need for an open dialogue on this topic. Ethics is a fundamental trait and it should be followed as a basic Dhamma in one’s life. Ethics and law go hand in hand. An ethical person will uphold good values. In the past there were incidents of slavery exercised in various countries as means of exerting much pressure on businesses. But this was later identified as unethical.
As of today people are concerned about what is going on within the corporate sector. When talking about ethics in business people should also focus on standard of conduct, moral values and governing values focusing on integrity. Ethics is important for the well-being of an organisation and in maximisation of profits. We expect market stakeholders to take ethical decisions in taking the corporate sector forward.”
The concept of non-compliance is important: Mihular
Mihular spoke about the concept of non-compliance.
“When a company is governed by laws and regulations there is only a very little done in terms of non-compliance. In most instances we see that the corporate sector turns a blind eye towards non-compliance, which in turn would interfere with client confidentiality. It is important to comply with fundamental principles, integrity and professional behaviour. Everybody has to apply with norms and compliance.”
The lesbian, gay, transgender, intersex and questioning (LGBTIQ) community has been marginalized for many years in the Asian context. Over the years much awareness was given to maximise possibilities to include them in society. However, from then to now, there is a considerable progress in giving them the due place in society.
It is important to include LGBTIQ persons in the corporate sector: Flamer-caldera
Speaking about the inclusion of LGBTIQ persons in the corporate sector, Flamer-Caldera said that the inclusion of the LGBTIQ community in the corporate sector had been an issue for decades. Ever since the British introduced the LGBTIQ law there have been many indifferences existing in the social arena. Sri Lanka is a signatory for many treaties including the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
During the last several years, Sri Lanka has come up with a policy to encourage LGBTIQ people to work in diverse environments. People should understand the fact the LGBTIQ people are also human beings.
However, the existing laws have criminalized their existence and people perceive their existence as illegal. There is an extremely high need for an environment that is willing to accept LGBTIQ people within a community. Sometimes the LGBTIQ people are underestimated and many even question as to whether they are even able to do a job. We need to look beyond this stereotype and encourage them to work in different settings.”