The selections for the World’s Most Ethical Companies®, and the content from them for this issue of Ethisphere Magazine, came together months before the coronavirus pandemic reached its current scale. The achievements of these companies are significant, and we want to devote most of this issue to recognizing their good work. However, I would be remiss not to take a moment to address the events currently shaping our world.
The toll of the coronavirus, COVID-19, is unfolding before our eyes and the impact is being felt in so many ways. We are in uncharted waters and, for many of us, experiencing a moment that is unlike any other in our lifetimes.
My closest personal experience is when I worked in NYC and lived just outside it during September 11th. While that day was one of the saddest in my life, it was for me, also one of the most affirming for the goodness of humanity.
My grandparents lived through the depression and world wars. I’ve heard their stories of hardship, read the books and seen the films.
A common thread weaves through these times of unfathomable disruption: leaders lead.
Today, it is time for the Ethisphere community to lead as well. The moment is now.
The companies that have the most impact in the world—the largest, global and best performing companies—have to be out in front on addressing the impacts of the coronavirus. We know they can do it. We see it every day and every year when we recognize the World’s Most Ethical Companies®, hear leading voices at the Global Ethics Summit and convene the hundreds of global member companies of our Business Ethics Leadership Alliance.
These companies are not afraid to address tough issues. They work hard to make their communities a better place through programs that touch those at greatest risk; help employees succeed through diversity, inclusion, wellness and mental health initiatives; collaborate with other organizations to protect the planet; and a wide range of other actions that make the world a better place. These are not small endeavors. It takes leadership, dedication, resources and a sense of purpose.
Every company can make a difference. Many are contemplating how. What does values-based leadership look like in practice? Here’s our checklist:
- Take the long view. Short-term profits really don’t matter right now. How you behave matters. No one will remember your quarterly results in five years, but as Maya Angelou has said “people will never forget how you made them feel.” Making some sacrifices now will help people feel safe, informed, and supported.
- Communicate frequently and with transparency. At times like this, there is no such thing as too much.
- Help those you touch: employees, associates, stakeholders, the communities in which you operate. Step up and step up some more.
- Provide unlimited sick leave for anyone affected. Their families will also need help, most likely financial. Set up funds to do so.
- Pay special attention to suppliers, vendors, and those third parties that are much smaller than you. They will need support.
- Provide unlimited leave time for anyone in your organization interested in volunteering.
- Place extra focus on the culture of your organization and be particularly aware of pressure to compromise results. We can support you there – stay tuned as Ethisphere makes additional free resources and tools available. My colleague Erica Salmon Byrne will also be a frequent voice sharing insights. You can learn more at Ethisphere.com.
- Take care of the non-profits and health care organizations in your communities. They will need your support, and goodness we need them.
- Be kind. Radical kindness will go so far to make these demanding times more humane.
And finally, something that is at the core to what we do at Ethisphere, share what’s working with other organizations. We are committed to doing the same. As we say often at Ethisphere—doing what’s right and ‘above and beyond’ is good business. It’s never been more true.
We’ll get through this – with extraordinary leadership, commitment and dedication by companies and individuals alike. Our moment is now.
About the Author:
Timothy Erblich is the Chief Executive Officer of the Ethisphere Institute, the global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices.