Ethisphere–who bring you the world’s most ethical companies–organised this two-day event to occur in several different international locations.
The one in London was heavily into compliance, rather than ethics, or even leadership. However, there were a couple of excellent sessions that certainly brought the leadership issue alive.
The first was the opening session in which Emmanuel Lulin, Senior Vice President and Chief Ethics Office from L’Oreal gave an impressive tour of how his company builds ethics into its culture and how “We share with the whole community wrong doings.”
He explained his highly proactive involvement is pursuing ethical issues—one bemused delegate and later speaker from Google privately declared with a hint of envy, “I just don’t know how he has time for all this contact.”
In his session Lulin explained there is considerable effort within L’Oreal to ensure HR assesses the ethics of L’Oreal managers and there is ongoing encouragement for them to:
“Act with integrity; and Act With Generosity.”
His most pointed remark though came towards the end. It was one which very much resonated with the arguments regularly made here at www.ethical-leadership.co.uk, namely
“If you get the ethics right the compliance will follow.”
The second session with a tangible emphasis of leadership occurred on the second day with input from two heavy-weight leaders: Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, former chairman of Royal Dutch Shell and Sir Roger Bone, currently president of Boeing UK.
Both brought to the session great clarity of thinking and in the case of Sir Mark, a positive blizzard of “war-stories which enlivened the various arguments he was making.
One these was that leaders need to involve employees and stakeholders in the ethics issue and an important way is to constantly tell stories, sharing successes and failures, very much echoing or re-enforcing the point made previously by Lulin from L’Oriel.
Sir Mark has a compelling, attractive style—you don’t get to be head of Shell on brains alone—and you could easily imagine him nailing some of the Shell leaders with his message about ethical conduct: “People must believe you really mean it.”
Similarly, Sir Roger Bone President of Boeing UK made clear his approach which was that people have to realise “Ethics and compliance are not optional extras”. And to be satisfied you are doing the right thing “You must have a set of core values that govern your life.”
The importance of respect was clearly close to his heart and he shared a favourite quote from Martin Luther King: You can have no influence over those for whom you have underlying contempt.
Much of the rest of the conference seemed somewhat mired in technical detail, such as the challenges facing highly regulated industries, conflicts of interest, managing and protecting IP across Europe and so on.
A slightly jarring aspect which several delegates noted privately, was while the conference was organised by Ethisphere with its core focus on ethics, the presence on one panel of a representative of a leading tobacco company was highly questionable. Its products and notoriously self-serving behaviour could hardly be described as remotely beneficial to humanity.
Gently confronted with this apparent conflict, the Ethipshere’s Managing Director of Content and Programming graciously conceded the issue might need consideration for future events. Presumably the firm in question would hardly feature amongst his list of the world’s most ethical companies!