Paul Holmes 28 May 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
Nike's labor practices in the Far East. The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. Big tobacco and lung cancer. Texaco and employee race relations. More and more, corporations are being evaluated by how they conduct themselves, not just on the numbers they deliver. However, as these and other countless instances of corporate misconduct indicate, instilling a moral sense inside the modern corporation is not so easy. According to John Dalla Costa, author of The Ethical Imperative, not developing ethical standards threatens the survival of businesses trying to compete in the global economy.
Costa contends that most businesses are guided by a rational self-interest that blinds them to the consequences of their actions, thus getting them into trouble. He writes, "The badge of rationality is very important to businesspeople because, against it, there can be no criticism." Costa, himself a former CEO, argues that developing a sense of ethics involves more than following a set of rules: it means developing an ethical orientation at all levels and processes of a corporation--not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it makes for good business. Drawing from an impressive range of subjects and case studies, Costa builds a compelling case for moral leadership in today's corporations.