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Corporate should look to Lent to embed ethics in business

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Organisations are increasingly realising that they need to be seen as ethical to maintain their licence to operate in a global economy.

Dr Eve Poole, Leadership Associate, Ashridge Business School, is calling for companies to plan a Corporate Lent for next year, to help embed truly ethical business practices: “While everyone wants companies to be more virtuous, it's easier said than done. But the principles of Lent, the 40 days of penance and sacrifice prior to Easter, have the potential to truly embed ethics within corporate culture

“Too often, leaders claim their actions are ethical by simply managing outcomes. Currently, sticking-plaster regulation is used to compensate for corporate misdemeanour. We need to move away from a transactional business ethic into a more virtuous one. For corporates struggling with this challenge, Lent is enormously interesting. It has a lot of secular appeal, with the idea of 'giving up' providing an engaging challenge. You are encouraged to pick something and do it every day – give up booze, stop swearing, help grannies across roads. The 'reward' is Easter eggs, but most people actually take part because it's good for building character.

“In turn, I propose a new discipline, a ‘Corporate Lent’. Companies need to consider crowd sourcing ideas for virtue pilots. Business leaders could pay all invoices within 28 days, source local or actively employ workers with mental health issues. The joy of Lent is that it's only 40 days, which works out as just over 30 working days once you exclude weekends and bank holidays. This leaves just 6 weeks to experiment in better ways of being corporately virtuous.”


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