In the last couple of years we have seen a number of questionable ethical behaviours in the fields of business, politics and in society more generally.  We had the investment bankers selling highly risky unsecured mortgages, leading to a major financial tsunami throughout the world; MPs misusing public money in the expenses scandal, leading to the public’s lack of trust in their political leaders; FIFA’s questionable process for selecting the host of the World Cup; and the News of the World hacking disaster, leading to questions about an uncontrolled and free press – and these are just the stories that have grabbed the headlines.  But what has generated these shocking activities?

Is it that we, and much of the rest of the world, have moved too close to the American dream of the almighty buck, to being successful or affluent at all costs, without thinking about the consequences?  It seems that Britain, among others, is striving so determinedly for personal success and material gain that we have left much of our ethical code in the wake of our unremitting ambition.

There are signs that with the collapse of the world economy and our financial institutions, we are now beginning to reflect on where we were going, whether we have made some mistakes along the way, and hopefully moving towards some sense of balance again.  Perhaps we are beginning to come to terms with the fallout of a lifestyle so predicated on money and influence that it has had as profound effect on our quality of life, and the freedoms and relationships we hold dear to us.

In the workplace, business ethics was on the agenda after Enron and similar business failures, but then disappeared as we moved to the next level of materialism, and some would say greed.  The time is now right to reflect on where we came from, and where we want to go.

Professor Sir Cary Cooper

Professor Sir Cary Cooper

Co-founder of Robertson Cooper, Cary set up the business with Ivan Robertson in 1999. A Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Manchester Business School, he is recognised as a world leading expert on wellbeing. Cary is also the media’s first choice for comment on workplace issues. He remains an active member of the Robertson Cooper team, focusing on strategy, external relations and PR activity.

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