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Urban myths of business ethics

17 minute read

According to chaos theory, a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a hurricane, but can an unethical decision by one manager have catastrophic consequences for the world’s economy?[1] According to past incidents with Jeffrey Skilling from Enron, Richard Fuld from Lehmann Brothers, and others, the answer is yes.

Managers are finding it increasingly difficult to steer clear of the changing moral waters of doing business, and unfamiliar circumstances—the “new normal”—with no experience to lean on is increasing the demands even further. With low trust in businesses doing the right thing (61%), managers are feeling the heat from everywhere.[2] Stakeholders are increasing the pressure on CEOs and boards not only by demanding companies be profitable but also by speaking out on important societal and ethical issues. Thus, it is no wonder that research by Harvard Business School shows that the most essential skill for CEOs is to have “high ethical and moral standards.”[3]

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