CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The editorial staff of Benchmarking: An International Journal is committed to helping those working at a senior level in industry, the public sector, consultancy, or academic institutions, to stay current on developments in the areas of Quality, Technology and Benchmarking. The focus of the journal is on “topics that have substantial management content, rather than being primarily technical in nature”. The Internet editorials will center on sites with a similar focus. I examine sites that I feel would be of interest to BIJ readers and report my findings. I attempt to be fair and objective in the presentation of my findings.
This editorial focuses on ethics. Concerns about ethical behavior, or should I say unethical behavior, have come to the forefront in recent years. High profile examples in government are not uncommon. Most will recall that Japan's Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori stepped down due to waning public support caused by his involvement in scandals and his frequent verbal gaffes. US President Bill Clinton was impeached, thought he never actually left office, for what most would agree was immoral and unethical conduct in office – most noteworthy, his lying to the American people about his sorted extramarital affair with Intern Monica Lewinski. The collapse of Enron and Martha Steward's insider trading is just a couple of examples that epitomize problems related to unethical behavior in business. Recent scandal in the Catholic Church, that involved playing a “shell game” (shuttling from parish to parish) with priests known to be child molesters to avoid bad publicity, demonstrates that unethical behavior occurs in all types of institutions, even churches. Most would agree that ethical behavior by people in all societal institutions is necessary in a civilized society, but how do we achieve such a lofty goal. In all institutions it requires a commitment to ethical conduct, defining ethical conduct and consequences of unethical conduct, and taking action when unethical conduct arises. Unethical conduct should be punished, or at least not rewarded. On the other hand, if we expect people to behave ethically, recognizing and rewarding the desired ethical behavior is needed to reinforce that behavior and increase the likelihood of ethical behavior in the future. If we truly want to institutionalize ethical conduct in all societal institutions, we must use a combination of rewards and punishment.
As a college student in the 1970s, I learned that ethics are generally accepted standards of behavior. I examined many definitions of ethics in preparing this editorial. It seems that, although ethics have certainly changed since the 1970s, the definition I learned then is just as applicable today. Values and morals have changed greatly since the 1970s, thus what is considered ethical or unethical in a particular context may have changed. A key component of the definition I used is “generally accepted”. Things that were not accepted as appropriate in 1975, such as the use of profanity on prime time television, are accepted today, not by everyone, but by the majority of society. If it were not accepted, it would not be tolerated by the public and they would not watch offending shows. Another key point that must be made about ethics is that ethics are influenced by culture. What is considered acceptable in the United States, or England, might be totally unacceptable in Saudi Arabia, Argentina, or in mainland China. Values and morals are key ingredients of ethics, and they differ from culture to culture; consequently, ethics vary from culture to culture. In our increasingly global business environment, this presents a real challenge for firms doing business in different countries.
The challenge we face is to understand, define and encourage ethical conduct in organizations, both public and private, profit and non-profit. This is why I have decided to devote this editorial to ethics. Organizations should benchmark their performance in all areas critical to their future success. We have seen evidence that unethical and illegal conduct can devalue, inhibit, or even destroy an organization, a politician, and even a priest. Organizations should consider benchmarking ethics just as they benchmark other areas critical to their long run success. This editorial highlights many sites that could be of value to organizations that are benchmarking ethics, or those who wish to benchmark performance in this important area.
In past editorials, I provided information about searches and search engines as well as benchmarking sites. For this editorial, I used only Google as my search engine. I found so many interesting sites using Google (I start all of my editorials with a Google search), that I decided to employ a different approach for this editorial. Rather than providing in-depth coverage of just four or five sites, I will provide a brief overview of many potentially useful sites. Given the broad nature of this topic and the diversity of potentially useful sites, I feel the approach employed for this editorial is appropriate. The keyword searches conducted with Google included the following: “benchmarking ethics”, “ethical codes”, “ethical benchmarking”, and simply “ethics”. I could not possibly include all the sites examined, but have included a good cross section thereof. Some of the sites are devoted entirely to ethics, some are devoted to broader topics but house content pertaining to ethics, and some contain simply an article or slideshow pertaining to ethics. A number of sites pertain to ethical benchmarking – benchmarking in a manner that is ethical. The sites are thus organized under two headings: “Ethical Benchmarking” and “Benchmarking Ethics”. As always, some of the featured sites are those of for-profit enterprises. My inclusion of those sites should not be considered an endorsement of the goods or services of those entities.
This section highlights Web sites or pages that contain information pertaining specifically to ethical benchmarking. Herein, one will find information providing guidance in the development of benchmarking guidelines to assure ethical conduct by those involved in benchmarking. Featured sites in this section contain articles and codes of conduct for influencing the behavior of participants in the benchmarking process.
American productivity and quality center's benchmarking code of conduct
The “Benchmarking Code of Conduct” is a publication of the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC) and widely referenced by other Web sites. This document contains a preamble and a list of principles intended to “guide benchmarking encounters, to advance the professionalism and effectiveness of benchmarking” and help to protect participants (those doing the benchmarking and those firms used as benchmarks) from harm. The code is adopted by the International Benchmarking Clearinghouse, a service of the APQC. A brief overview of this document can be found at http://www.cme.org/tw/bm/ethics.htm. and on other sites as well.
The European Foundation for Quality Management's European Benchmarking Code of Conduct
The European Foundation for Quality Management's (EFQM) European Benchmarking Code of Conduct is very similar to the APQC's Benchmarking Code of conduct and in fact is based on that document. Changes in wording take into account the rules of the European Union competition law. The purpose of the EFQM document is the same as the APQC's document – to provide guidelines to promote ethical benchmarking.
Competitive benchmarking: understanding the ethical issues
This article was found on the Onlineethics.org site. More specifically, the article comes from the “Ethics Office” at Texas Instruments. There are actually several articles on the page pertaining to the topic of ethics. Each is short and provides some guidance for managers involved in the benchmarking process to assist them in making sure that their conduct is ethical and legal. Article 72 describes practices that are ethical, while article 74 describes practices that are considered unethical. The Onlineethics.org site is further described in the next section of this editorial.
Sites, pages and articles in this section pertain to ethical conduct in various types of institutions. Firms that decide to benchmark their own ethical conduct must identify benchmarks against which they will measure their own performance. Professional codes of ethics, organizations exhibiting particularly noteworthy ethical behavior, and the likes should be helpful to organizations in developing their own benchmarks for ethical conduct. This section contains a cross section of sites containing such information. Many more can be found on the Web. I hope that interested readers will find these sites and web pages helpful to them in learning more about ethics and/or in developing benchmarks for ethical behavior.
Free Management Library (resources on ethics)
The “Free Management Library” is a highly integrated management library provided for profits and non-profits by Authenticity Consulting, LLC. The library contains a wealth of materials about many topics, but of interest here are the materials pertaining to ethics. The site contains many articles and other resources pertaining to ethics. Among the things one can find on the site are links to books, articles, free online programs, and numerous links to other sites pertaining to ethics. One can find links to listservers and discussion groups, a long list of links to sites pertaining to ethics and related topics, and more. This site, though not very pleasing to the eye, is packed with links to useful sites and information and is a good place to start a search for materials about ethics.
The Ethics Resource Center
The Ethics Resource Center (ERC) is dedicated to improving ethical practice in organizations. Among the things one will find on this site are articles, opportunities for involvement in research on ethical and related issues, research studies, and of course links. The ERC readily makes its findings available to researchers, practitioners, the media and the public. On the site, one will find links to articles, books, news, speeches, and organizations. Particularly noteworthy are the links to organizations. One can find links to commercial sites as well as links to business, government, and professional organizations dedicated to ethical conduct. The links alone make this site worth the visit.
Provided by the publishers of the “Business Ethics: Corporate Responsibility Report,” the Business Ethics site houses useful resources for those interested in benchmarking ethics. Articles are a major feature of this site. I found many articles of interest when I visited the site, but one of the most interesting was entitled “The 100 Best Corporate Citizens for 2003”. Articles like this one can help those with an interest in benchmarking ethics to identify best practice in organizations. Also of interest would be the books, conferences and events, recommended books, and the “Links to Like-Minded Groups.” There is also a link entitled “For Educators”, which accesses a page with resources for educations involved in studying or teaching ethics.
The Institute for Global Ethics
The Institute for Global Ethics (IGE) exists for the purpose of “promoting ethical behavior in individuals, institutions and nations through research, public discourse, and practical action”. IGE publishes Ethics Online, a weekly E-zine to disseminate news and views on ethics and ethical behavior in organizations, both public and private. The site houses links providing access to articles, organizations, books, conference and seminar announcements, and other resources. Much emphasis is placed on education, organizational services and promoting public policy to encourage ethical conduct in public and private organizations. The IGE site is well designed and easy to navigate. It provides access to many resources pertaining to ethics.
Crossroads Programs, Inc.
Crossroads offers guidance and facilitation in, among other things, ethics. Ethics are a primary concern of the organization and the site houses numerous ethics related resources. Interesting features of the site include a “Corporate Integrity Checkup,” “Adventures in Ethics,” and “Universal Ethics”. A link to pages devoted to each of these areas can be found on the Crossroad map. The Corporate Integrity Checkup is a free checkup that allows a company to compare its ethical health to others. Adventures in Ethics allow visitors to explore their own views on ethics through “interactive and intertwined (hyperlinked) tales of adventure in the modern business world”. The adventures are “entertaining reality-based dilemmas in everyday language, and without sermonizing”. Last, Crossroads promotes its own “universal ethical principles”. This site is well designed, entertaining, and possibly useful for anyone interested in examining and/or benchmarking ethical behavior. The site is quite different from most others highlighted in this editorial as its content and approach are somewhat unique.
The Ethical Leadership Group
Another consulting firm, the Ethical Leadership Group provides “custom consulting for organizations interested in strengthening ethical leadership”. Unless one is interested in acquiring the services of the organization, then the “Resources” link is perhaps the most useful feature of the site for the casual visitor seeking information. The Resources page has many useful links to articles and organizations. One particularly noteworthy article was actually a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Virtual Benchmarking: Ethics Officers' Views on Cutting Edge Issues”. That PP presentation is quite interesting and it alone is worth a visit to the site.
The European Business Ethics Network
The European Business Ethics Network is a non-profit based in the Netherlands that describes itself as the “only International network dedicated wholly to the promotion of business ethics in European private industry, public sector, voluntary organizations and academia”. A very well designed and aesthetically appealing site, it contains numerous potentially valuable resources for visitors. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the site for those simply looking for information is the EBEN site's “Links” page. It houses one of the most extensive lists of links to other sites pertaining directly or indirectly to ethics of any visited in preparing for this editorial. Most of the links point to sites or pages in Europe. Other site features of interest include the EBEN Ethics Practitioner Forum (found on the Events page), the EBEN Interactive E-mail Group, and the Newsletter. The links page alone makes this site worth to visit.
The Global Alliance
The Global Alliance (GA) is an alliance of associations rather than an organization made up of individual members. GA helps public relations practitioners, and the associations that serve them, share ideas and best practice, seek common interests and standards, and better understand the unique aspects of each culture in which they operate. The link shown above accesses the “Ethics Centre” page of the GA site. The GA Ethics Centre page has value for those interested in ethics (from the organizations home page, one can follow the “Knowledge Centre” link, then the “Ethics Centre” link, to access the ethics page). The Ethics Centre page contains useful articles and links. Another interesting resource available on that page is “Ask the Experts”. That resource is available only to practitioners who are members of the GA. One particularly interesting article available through the Ethics Centre was entitled, “Benchmarking of Codes of ethics in Public Relations – Phase 2”. To access that article directly, one can use the following URL: http://www.globalpr.org/ knowledge/ethics/ethics-Benchmarking.pdf. The article summarizes a study of GA member codes of ethics. Other similar documents can be found on the GA Ethics Centre page. For anyone interested in benchmarking public relations, the EB Ethics Centre is worth a visit.
The Institute of Business Ethics
The Institute of Business Ethics, a UK-based charitable organization, is dedicated to encouraging “high standards of corporate and business behavior and the sharing of best practice”. Among the interesting materials one will find on this site are the following: guidance in developing and implementing codes of conduct (see “Codes of Conduct” link); publications (largely books for sale); events (including discussion groups and forums); links and news on ethics (see “News/Resources” link); and a link to the “Teaching Business Ethics” Web site of the European Business Ethics Network (UK), a resource primarily for academics. Perhaps the most useful feature I examined in this site was the materials accessed via the Codes of Conduct link. Here, one will find a good description of a code of ethics, guidance for developing and implementing a code of ethics, tips on making codes effective and useful, advice on codes of ethics tailored to SMEs, advice on solving ethical dilemmas – simple ethical tests for making a business decision – and examples of ethical codes (links to companies with codes). While the IBE site offers much to the visitor, the “Codes of Conduct” area alone makes a visit to this site worthwhile.
The International Business Ethics Institute
The International Business Ethics Institute (IBEI) is a private, non-profit, non-partisan, educational organization dedicated to “fostering global business practices to promote equitable economic development, resource sustainability and just forms of government”. IBEI works to “increase public awareness and dialogue about international business ethics issues,” through its roundtable discussion series, the International Business Ethics Review and its Web site. IBEI also helps companies in establishing effective international ethics programs. Among the more useful features of this site are its Education resources (includes a roundtable discussion, research projects, etc.), its Publications (includes an expanding journal and access to some interesting articles from it), and other assorted resources. The “Resource” link accesses a page affording access to numerous useful resources. The Resources page houses “The Business Ethics Primer”, business ethics links, and more. The Business Ethics Primer includes a definition of the field of business ethics, a historical perspective on ethics, and discussion of key concepts related to business ethics. The IBEI site is interesting and easy to navigate. I found the Business Ethics Primer to be among the most interesting of resources available on the site.
The Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility (Within the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem)
The Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility (BESR) site is the property of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, located at the Jerusalem College of Technology. The mission of BESR is “to encourage and promote high standard of business integrity and economic honestly through creating an awareness of Jewish ethical teachings”. Among the interesting resources available on the BESR site are articles, links and more. The “About Business Ethics” link accesses a page with definitions of business ethics, social responsibility, and more. The “Library and Resource Center” link provides access to many articles, most of which are written about ethics and social responsibility from a Jewish perspective. Links to articles are grouped under various categories including “International Business”, “Commerce”, “Government”, “Crime and Corruption”, and more. The “Web Magazine” link provides access to other interesting articles. Reading materials abound at this site and most are well written and interesting. The reading materials are in my view the strength of the site.
The Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science
The Online Ethics Center (OEC) for Engineering and Science is the property of Case Western Reserve University. Established through a grant from the National Science Foundation, the OEC's mission is to “provide engineers, scientists and science and engineering students with resources useful for understanding and addressing ethically significant problems that arise in their work life”. The center also provides many resources designed to serve teachers who wish to address ethics in the classroom setting. Visitors will find links to cases, essays, articles and more. The “Topics Index” link makes finding information concerning topics of interest fast and easy (this site was designed to be fast and efficient and it is that). The “Codes of Ethics” link is one that I found particularly useful. It accesses a page with links to many professional codes of ethics, some of which are maintained by the OEC and others not. Also on the Codes of Ethics page, one will find some interesting essays by following the “Essays on Ethical Standards” link. The visitor will find much interesting reading material available on this site and many useful links. The OEC site is well worth to visit by anyone with an interest in ethics, generally, or benchmarking ethics specifically.
The Wharton Legal Studies Department Ethics Program
This Web site is sponsored and maintained by the Wharton School, at the University of Pennsylvania. The purpose of the Ethics Program is twofold. First, the program exists to strengthen student understanding of ethical issues and how to address and resolve such issues. Second, the program aims to promote outstanding research on ethical issues confronting business managers and firms, strategies for creating ethical environments in organizations, the impact of public policy on ethical business behavior, and the content, role and effectiveness of ethics education. The links found under the heading of “Research” are perhaps the most useful on the site for visitors with an interest in ethics and benchmarking ethical behavior in organizations. The “Links” link contains many hyperlinks to other Web sites on ethics, many of which are ethics centers at other universities in the US. Many of those Web sites are rich in links to other ethics related sites. The “Publications” link does not access publications directly, but does access a page with a link to “Knowledge@ Wharton”, which is Wharton's free business and research Web site, containing articles, faculty papers, links to other sites and more. An Icon on the Publications page acts as the link to the business ethics research section of the Wharton research Web site. Finally, the “Research Centers” link access the Web site of the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research, where one will find more links to research, other Web sites, and more.
The focus of BIJ is on “topics that have substantial management content, rather than being primarily technical in nature”. The content of this Internet editorial is consistent with that focus. The Benchmarking process necessarily involves finding out about the performance of other organizations. That information is often used in establishing performance benchmarks. There are laws that are applicable to such activities, but there remain gray areas where laws are not violated, but actions and behaviors may well be regarded by most as inappropriate. It is precisely these areas where ethics are applicable. Codes of conduct for benchmarking are needed and I highlighted two such codes in this editorial. Company concerns about ethical behavior extend well beyond the actual benchmarking process, to all organizational activities and processes. Other sites featured in this editorial house content on more general issues pertaining to ethics. Organizations would be wise to benchmark their ethical behavior in sales, product development, engineering, finance, operations management, human resource management, accounting, public relations, information technology management and more. The long run success of organizations is dependent upon maintaining good relations with all stakeholders. Ethical behavior in dealing with all stakeholders will help to assure good relations with stakeholders and continued stakeholder support. Many diverse sites and brief descriptions of each were included in this editorial. It is my hope that this editorial might heighten interest in ethical benchmarking and in the broader area of benchmarking ethical behavior in all activities, processes, and areas of organizations, public and private, and profit and non-profit.
This editorial included many more sites than normally included in my editorials, but with less detailed coverage of each site. This allowed me to give some attention to many interesting sites devoted to ethics. The sites are diverse, but all are potentially valuable to practitioners and researchers with an interest in benchmarking ethics. Whether you prefer the less detailed coverage of more sites, or you prefer the more detailed coverage of four or five sites (my usual approach), please drop me an E-mail and register your preferences. I would like to prepare editorials that best meet the needs of the readers. Your views are important to me and will influence the format of future editorials. My goal is to write Internet Editorials that will be valuable to BIJ readers. Any assistance you can provide to help me achieve that goal is appreciated. If you have a site or know of a site that you would like to see featured in future editorials, please e-mail me your suggestions. Send your comments and suggestions to Ronald McGaughey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ronald E. McGaugheyInternet Editor