Thursday, 15 March 2012

Pondering on Morally Corrupt Companies

I was reading an article by a Goldman Sachs Exec who is leaving the company because he can no longer in clear conscience stay with a company that is so morally corrupt they make Satan seem like a Saint [my words not his!]. As with most things that I read these days it made me wonder what do people who find themselves in that situation do. What would you do if you found yourself working for a morally corrupt company? Or worse a morally corrupt business sector? - Again Banking somehow comes to mind here, but there is also mining, drilling for oil, and tree logging that might fit, not to mention food production!

Now I have worked for some interesting people/companies; my current employer is certainly quirky in terms of corporate culture, but none of them have come across as morally corrupt. The London council I worked for was morally constrained by central government policy that is for sure, but the people leading it were by all standards good people with some decent ideals.   

Normally I would keep these sort of thoughts to myself or share them with my friends - God knows they suffer my opinions on a daily basis and all deserve a Nobel prize for it! I get my feed back from them, but most of them have not even been given the chance to work, dare I say work for a company with low or no ethics! So I thought I would share this pondering in the hope that I might get some insightful responses from the rest of the world.

To explain why I am asking and why I am so interested in this. I am a masters student in international relations as well as being a business media analyst/researcher. The human condition on a global scale is my bread and butter. I read about banks, insurers, credit card companies, mining giants, oil companies and food producing giants which control our lives on a day to day basis. For the last two years as part of my studies as well as part of my job AND everyday life I have come across greed, ruthless profiteering, environmental destruction and the mindless infringement on Human Rights from every single company I encountered. I read about their Corporate Social Responsibility policies, but it is just rhetoric and posturing. Don’t get me wrong I will defend the notion of CSR until I am blue in the face, unfortunately it seems to be nothing more than a notion for the vast majority of these corporations. I also need to say that I am fully aware that there are companies out there with a good CSR record which benefit their stakeholders [different to shareholders!]

But back tomy point. These are the companies a lot of us work for, or aspire to work for. They are teaching us a particular kind of ethics [or lack of!] and as we become accustomed to think of nothing but making money at any cost to our moral selves and call our clients “muppets” because we were never taught to respect, we are going to allow this sort of behavior to creep into our daily lives - I already see it in some people I know - and eventually we will pass it on to our children.  

So what would you do if you worked for a morally corrupt company??

[You can read Greg Smith’s article about why he is leaving GS here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/opinion/why-i-am-leaving-goldman-sachs.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all%3Fsrc%3Dtp&smid=fb-share ]