As an organisational psychologist, HR professional and person interested in social justice, I’ve worked with thousands of individuals and leaders across nearly 20 countries. The right to access their secrets and stories comes with an ethical responsibility.
I am called into organisations to ‘speak the unspeakable’ and ‘voice the unspoken’. When I do this and leaders are prepared to make the required changes to their practices, they not only see positive benefits to the bottom line but they create satisfying communities in which to work.
The notion of ethical leadership encourages readers to think about the many unconscious choices they make regarding social justice and the ways in which they unwittingly collude with unethical practices in their businesses and personal lives. Employees and customers do not wish to associate with organisations that pollute the environment, abuse human beings or collude with animal cruelty.
While most of us would agree that practices such as exploiting your workforce and poisoning the environment have no place in an ethical organisation, rarely has consideration been given to how animals are affected by business decisions.
- The live export industry is a recent example of the direct and indirect costs to business of a public becoming increasingly aware of animal welfare issues. A boycott of live exports has had direct implications for the revenue stream of Australian farmers.
- One of their markets was suddenly closed, and once reopened did not return to its previous business levels. Imagine if this happened to your lead product and public outrage about your product, ingredients, testing or production methods became the focus of a national and possibly international campaign? What would this do to your sales?
- The reality is that not only would your profit be negatively affected, but also your funds would be eaten up in costly campaigns to limit the damage.
- A company can integrate an ethical leadership strategy into their business to actually gain an edge over competitors who directly or indirectly engage in unethical practices.
- For example, publicity campaigns have raised awareness and demand for free- range and organic produce, and customers are prepared to pay more for these products.
- Organisations do not need to change all their practices overnight. What we must do is accept that our employees, customers, suppliers – and the media who report on them – are becoming increasingly informed of animal issues.
Businesses across a broad range of industries often unwittingly collude with animal cruelty. Their own production practices might involve animal testing, animal use or damage to the environment and animal habitats. Discussing animal issues in the boardroom isn’t just an ethical issue – it’s a business imperative. As an organisational psychologist, my advice to companies is to place animal issues firmly on the business agenda.