May 142008

To the annual Ethical Corporation Summit in London yesterday, to take part in a panel discussion which involved having ‘ethical business dilemmas’ thrown at us by David Grayson, one of the guru academics on corporate responsibility. My fellow panellists were Daniel Franklin, Executive Editor of The Economist, Matthew Gwyther, Editor of Management Today and Ben Clarke, formerly CEO of Kraft UK.  I think we did OK, but some of the questions were tricky to say the least! Apart from the topical subject of how to handle Olympic sponsorship dilemmas, we debated a number of scenarios. The most bizarre of which involved how to handle a situation where a company discovered its supplier abroad had subcontracted work to another factory down the road. Upon auditing the factory, its owner proudly revealed a massive arms stash, designed, he said, to protect his workers from kidnap by the local mafia. Should you delist the supplier, work with them to create better security, or ignore it until the weapons were actually used? Bizarrely, this ‘hypothetical’ case turned out to be a real one (although we weren’t told which British company’s supply chain it was). It was good fun and I think I (just) managed to be provocative without making my own employment unsustainable. I hope so, anyway.

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