Practical results

There is some evidence that the concern for an ethical approach to business is having some results. The Institute of Business Ethics (IBE) was established in 1986. Its latest survey shows that a growing number of companies provide a code of ethics for their employees and are also showing an interest in ethical/social audits – although less than half translate the code for local use overseas. The ethical issue of greatest concern is the source of supplies, which relates to public pressure about the use of child labour and the working conditions in many countries. The IBE gives some examples of good practice. Nestle’s is using its marketing expertise to make Russian children aware of the link between diet and health. Nestle has been sponsoring the Russian TV version of the popular children’s show Sesame Street. It has used the cartoon characters to produce books for 6-8 year olds about the importance of healthy eating.

Another initiative is the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum (PWBLF), which was set up in 1990 to promote ‘responsible business practices internationally that benefit business and society, and which help to achieve social, economic and environmentally sustainable development, particularly in new and emerging market economies.’ Again, there are some results. The sports footwear industry plays a large part in Vietnam’s economy. In 1997 Pentland, one of the major international firms, commissioned a report which showed the dangers of poor ventilation, exposure to hazardous chemicals and inadequate safety equipment. Subsequently the PWBLF, after wide consultation, has drawn up a communal action plan, which is now being put into effect. In Mumbai what is said to be the first environmentally responsible hotel was opened in December 1998. All the wood is from Hevea (rubber) trees and treated to take on the properties of more expensive woods such as teak or maple. The Hevea trees are cropped and replanted in a 25-30 year cycle. Room hangers are made of pressed board from recycled wood.

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