Business ethics. What an oxymoron! As a corporate consultant and trainer by profession, I am interested in the ways we find to reconcile two seemingly opposing forces – business and ethics. What is the role, if any, of values in enterprises created to make a profit?
In 2008, after finishing my MBA, I thought it was the last time I would wear a graduation gown and cap. Years went by, and then I came across an advert that the University of Malta is offering a Master’s degree in Business Ethics, a subject area I find fascinating.
So, in 2014, my MA in Business Ethics journey started. It was a journey characterised by learning new perspectives and an appreciation that there is no one absolute truth.
As a person intrigued by knowledge, I found the subjects mesmerising. We live in unprecedented times, but the diverse ways in which ethics has been defined through millennia is inspiring.
People who were also living in unprecedented times thousands of years ago encountered the same difficulties we do. No wonder there never was and probably never will be agreement on what is right and wrong!
Together with lecturers, we discussed different perspectives of business ethics in different countries, diverse religions and gender perspectives. I learnt how to debate, to question and to live with the uneasy truth that no matter what, people can never completely agree.
During one of the very first lectures, I heard for the first time the phrase “businesses have a responsibility towards the society and environment which allow them to operate”. And it is true. It is society that provides employees, suppliers and customers, and it is the environment from which we extract raw materials to create products and services. Let that sink in a bit. Business cannot and should not survive without profit, but profit should not be the purpose of a business, but rather the result of it. It is then that a triple bottom line is truly achieved, balancing people, profit and planetary needs.
Business cannot and should not survive without profit, but profit should not be the purpose of a business, but rather the result of it
In my thesis, supervised by Fr Mark Sultana, I focused on mentoring in the workplace – the importance of management as role models, the power people hold over others, the importance of choosing the right role models and knowing when it is time for the mentor to leave the driver seat.
Most of all I learnt the importance of humility. Learning ethics is not a superpower that prevents us from making ethical mistakes. It gives us a lot of knowledge but also greater responsibility and keeps us grounded in the reality that we too, in our own conviction, can be wrong.
The MA in Business Ethics course has opened new opportunities for me. Today, I am hoping that it was not the last time I wore my graduation gown and cap. I am currently researching for a PhD in Management with the University of Glasgow and financially supported by the Tertiary Education Scholarships Scheme (TESS). My subject is related to how we all make decisions that go against our values, without realising.
No, business ethics is not an oxymoron. Business and ethics are the enablers of good, sustainable business. Today we, as consumers and employees, want to associate ourselves with organisations that fit our values and purpose.
Organisations that put their responsibility towards people and the planet at par with profit, are those that will be still viable in a few years from now.
For more information on the part-time MA in Business Ethics course offered by the University of Malta course, visit www.um.edu.mt/theology/prospective.
For further information on the course, call the Faculty of Theology on 2340 2767 or e-mail the course coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those interested in applying, visit www.um.edu.mt/apply.
Prospective students may apply for a bursary of €2,000 or benefit from a tax credit of 70 per cent of the full tuition fees under the Get Qualified Scheme.