The recent events at Oxfam have highlighted, once again, the role that ethics has to play in modern organisations. It is impossible and indeed not right, to separate purpose and the ethical stance of those businesses and charities that we deal with. The scandal that has rocked Oxfam over the last few weeks has made me rethink whether or not I should support them.
I have been a long time donor to Oxfam. It is not a large amount of money that I give but it has been a regular monthly donation. I started to donate as I felt Oxfam were doing some good and important work in parts of the world less fortunate than ours. I still think this is the case but the question for me has been: Do I stop giving or do I carry on?
If I stop, in a very small way I will be hurting the charity. This will be especially true if many others withdraw their contributions. At the same time though, I will be hurting the very people that I want to help.
If I continue then I may feel I am supporting an organisation that has let its donors and recipients down. It has.
All large organizations have things that go wrong. People are people and do things that are wrong and bad. It is not possible for a charity which has thousands of employees and volunteers over a global reach to keep an eye on everyone of them. Indeed it should not do so. Instead it should set out its values, put systems in place to ensure these are lived up to and deal with those whose actions fall short.
In the words of Linda Cliatt-Wayman, so what, now what, it is the actions that Oxfam takes over the immediate future that will determine if I continue to believe in what they do. It is whether they address the problems or hide them away.
They have written to me several times explaining their position, apologising for what has happened and the steps they are taking to put things right. This is an opportunity for the charity and all of us to learn and the story highlights the need for a focus on ethical business.
For the time being I will continue with my donations.