Affordable ethics

Image thanks to Cite4Me

A couple of things have made me think about ethics in business this morning. I was at Informal Friday in Morpeth when the conversation got round to affordable housing, an awful euphemism for low cost or cheap housing. All houses are affordable by someone, otherwise they would never be sold. The second time was a conversation with a friend which made me think whether ethics was a question of affordability.

Does your ethical stance depend upon how well off you are? Is it easier to be ethical when you are sure of the roof over your head and the food in your stomach? Is it more difficult to hold firm to your ethics when the opposite is true? Discuss.

I have bought a new car, new to me that is, and it has an indicator on the dashboard called an Eco Guide. There are two pointers that move up and down independently of each other depending upon how you are driving. The left pointer shows how economically you are driving on average while the one on the right shows how you are driving at that instant. The aim is to get the pointer on the left as high as possible by keeping the one on the right above it.

This indicator came into mind and I imagined a person’s ethical stance to be something similar. Each of us has an average stance which we would like to be as high as possible, at least I would. Just as when you are driving in traffic or up a steep hill when your fuel consumption drops, there may well be times when circumstances must overrule your ethics. The end never justifies the means yet sometimes the means may justify the end.

I am in a lucky position to be able to refuse work that I don’t feel meets my ethical standards but others may not be so fortunate. Our aim however, should be to try and make sure that our own ethical standards, the right hand indicator, stay above our prevailing average.

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