Archbishop of Wales calls for ethical business code

Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales
Image caption Dr Barry Morgan says conventional regulation would not cure 'moral blindness'

The Archbishop of Wales will support calls for an ethical business code when he talks to firms in Wales later.

Dr Barry Morgan will suggest that practices could be improved if executives signed an oath similar to that adhered to by doctors.

Speaking to Professions Group Wales, Dr Morgan will say a change is needed after crises like the banking crisis and MPs' expenses scandal.

CBI Wales director David Rosser applauded him for raising the issue.

Dr Morgan believes an oath for those with the Master of Business Administration (MBA), which lays out a code of principles like the Hippocratic Oath does for doctors, would help with responsible leadership in business.

In a draft of his speech he says: "To talk about ethics means talking about how we should live our lives and the kind of people we ought to be and the way we would like our communities to function.

"In the context of business this used to be regarded as irrelevant, pious or even weak. It was not seen as 'businesslike' in a world where competition ruled and financial growth was the only marker of success.

"However, we are now coming to realise that every time we make a choice or take a decision we are reflecting our personal values and commitments, indicating the kinds of people we are and the way in which we organise our lives."

The idea of an ethical code was first mooted by Harvard Business School.

The archbishop will tell the meeting in Cardiff that high-profile incidents, like the spotlight on bonus culture in banking and the way some MPs claim for expenses, have revealed a need for businesses to behave more ethically.

He added: "The MBA oath is something worth considering because in the end conventional regulation cannot cure moral blindness or rule out greed."

David Rosser, director of CBI Wales, welcomed the intervention, saying: "Business reputation has been on a downward trend for too long and is a concern to a growing number of business leaders.

"As well as being the right thing to do, at a time of increasing transparency and rapid dissemination of information, ethical business standards will increasingly be critical to gaining and retaining a licence to operate from customers and employees."

Mr Rosser also said that high levels of pay should not be awarded where immoral business practice has occurred.

"The business activity which generates those profits must be ethical, and where based on the taking of high risk, the consequences of failure must fall on the shareholders and those employees - not on the public purse.

"This is where we need to address the banking situation and why public anger at the payment of bonuses is understandable."

However, he said he did not see the payment of large bonuses in itself as immoral.

"If an owner of a business decides he's going to pay a very large sum to an individual I think first of all it's their business.

"Presumably, they will want to make sure that those payments are justified by an exceptional performance which grows the business.

"The important thing is the business activity which generated those profits has to be ethical."

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