That question has already been answered to the extent of jail terms, lost pensions, personal disgrace and yet that is only the tip of the iceberg. We as human beings must build organizations in which freedom and personal initiative can cohabit with cooperation, caring and a highly integrated harmony or all is lost.
Hard times are not coming they are here. They call into question more self-indulgent goals such as quality of work, life and minimizing the environmental degradation. What good are business ethics in a business that may be forced to close its doors and send all of its people to the streets because of deceit?
Business, small or large, still does not understand that the hard lesson we are facing is that ethics is not a luxury. The ethics we need to save us, to make us competitive in the market, is a very deep kind of wisdom.
Free enterprise is about to encounter the age of limits and in doing so will discipline itself. As the decade progresses, the advantage to the ethical will grow. It is now being discovered that we only bring our best selves to the party where each individual is valued and has sufficient freedom to act.
For higher levels of interconnection to manifest there must be trust, and that trust must be based on an assurance of the goodness of others in the system. Effective societies and companies alike have their grounding in ethical basics that rest on freedom and democracy.
We all get complacent sometimes. We have comfort zones. We do the things we enjoy, that feel good before thinking things thoroughly through. That is why many people surround themselves with people who agree with them, think like them, and support them.
The CEO of a large company does not have that luxury. In return of the compensation being heaped on him by the shareholders, he must immerse himself in the uncomfortable, the unfamiliar, and the different opinions, often times of others.
Only in that way can he keep the company strong. Only then can he and the shareholders avoid a debacle like Enron. There are many lessons that can be learned from the collapse of Enron. Their demise came from within, where there were no ethics.
Business organizations have contributed to the problems of the world, materialism, and alienations as consequences of the modern corporations. Yet modern corporations have with them the powers of change.
Those businesses that seize the ethical initiative will define the future and be around to enjoy it.