Managing Ethics in Consultancy

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.
Potter Stewart – Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court

As there are few laws that govern consulting ethics, they are generally left to the individual to manage, develop and apply. Such a process leads to what I have termed an ‘individualisation’ of ethics:

  • An employer outlines an ethical code – a way for employees to behave – but this is localised, non -compulsory and managed by the firm without any external reference. If rules are broken, sometimes the profit motive blurs of the objectivity – those who will be applying discipline are acutely aware of the profit- generating potential of the transgressor.
  • Industry watchdogs are virtually toothless. The Office of Government Commerce and National Audit Office have very superficial powers and in reality, it is no-one’s function to administer punishments for unethical (rather than illegal) behaviour.
  • Other professions, such as law, medicine and accounting, have compulsory membership, exams and regulations but management consultants are not policed in this way – trade associations and institutes are voluntary and subsequently have very small memberships – often around 4% of all consultants.

Attempts to enforce collective standards have foundered; professionalism is an element of control that in general the industry seems to resist. As a consequence, there are few cases of malpractice; nothing like the number in medial and legal sectors.

Yet, whilst the individual needs to be aware of ethics, this has frequently been shown to be inadequate in ensuring moral norms: compulsory industry institutions, strong government watchdogs and enhanced whistle-blowing legislation would all provide ways of ensuring the significant powers that consultancies have are not misplaced.

More details are here:-

Business social responsibility should not be coerced; it is a voluntary decision that the entrepreneurial leadership of every company must make on its own.
John Mackey – American businessman, CEO of Whole Foods

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