Dean Anand: Four reasons to care about business ethics

Good ethics spells good business. Sounds simple enough, right? If that were the case, though, we wouldn’t see headlines like this or this. Helping to change that reality is Anand Anandalingam, dean of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. With his eye on training the next generation of business leaders, Anandalingam — or “Dean Anand,” as he’s called — is helping to expand our current understanding of business ethics. Business ethics, he says, isn’t just about having a system of checks and balances, it’s dean-anandabout exercising corporate social responsibility. Now you can get in on the conversation. On Friday, Sept. 25, business leaders, academics, policy makers, and nonprofit executives will join Dean Anand to kick off the opening of the Center for Social Value Creation, a new initiative at the Smith School of Business. In advance of the center’s launch, Dean Anand recently offered ExecutiveBiz four reasons why every executive should care about business ethics.

1.) Your business now performs on a global stage. As the government moves to insource more functions, many businesses — including your own — will likely look to overseas markets for new business opportunities. With a more global reach, it’s important to be mindful of any variances in compliance standards between you and your host country. Always err on abiding the more stringent of the two standards, says Anandalingam. A simple place to start is sound environmental practices. “If you are doing business in a country — especially a developing country hungry for foreign investment — you might be tempted to wink at environmental regulations, but sooner or later somebody is going to call you on that,” says Anandalingam. If the authorities don’t, then certainly the millennials you seek to recruit will.

2.) Your ability to recruit millennials depends on the ethical image you project. With competition for talent between the government and industry growing increasingly fierce, many companies are looking to replenish their employee base with a new crop of recruits: millennials. But guess what? Even in tough economic times, millennials are willing to forego a jobs that doesn’t align with their sense of corporate social responsibility, says Anandalingam. “The students we see on the Smith School campus are not willing to work for companies they think are doing wrong by the environment,” he says. Companies can let millennials know they take corporate social responsibility seriously several ways, says Anandalingam. And it has to be more than lip service. “Sooner or later they [millennials] will find out if the reality is different from what they’ve been told,” says Anandalingam. One, the company CEO needs to weave in an underlying theme of social responsibility into every speech and presentation. Two, your company’s marketing materials should reflect discussion of involvement in issues such as environmental protection, gender and ethnic diversity, and nonprofit volunteer work. Three, when you interview young people, let them know — even if they don’t ask — that corporate social responsibility is important to your company.

3.)  The Obama administration is pushing greater transparency. With initiatives such as the Federal IT Dashboard, your customer — the government — is paying closer attention to you. That closer watch spells greater need to focus on business ethics, says Anandalingam. Meanwhile, with efforts such as Serve.gov, Obama is shaping a national dialogue in which corporate volunteerism comes into greater focus. “I think that, especially in this area, there is going to be more discussion among customers in government about which companies have a concrete plan for both social responsibility and business ethics,” says Anandalingam. Is your business prepared for that conversation?

4.) Everyone is tweeting about you — and you can’t control the conversation. In an age where everyone is a one-man media show, capable of reaching millions through blogs and tweets, it’s quickly apparent: Whatever your company does can be instantaneously shared, dissected, or worse, trashed in the public eye — including among that promising young millennial recruit kicking back on Facebook one night. “It is critical, then, for any company to be sensitive to the fact that there are no closed doors; transparency is the new objective,” says Anandalingam, adding, “If that’s not reason enough for companies to care about how they conduct themselves, I don’t know what is.”

You’re Invited!

Want to get in on the conversation? Join Dean Anand as he kicks of The Center for the Social Value Creation Friday, Sept. 25 at Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. For more information, visit http://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/betterworld/ or email csvc@rhsmith.umd.edu

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