The ethics of business is a complex topic of discussion, with complicated issues and blurred lines of morality. This becomes more evident in a time of crisis when companies may resort to using any means necessary to remain sustainable. An appropriate example is the News International phone hacking scandal, which was a betrayal of those whose privacy was violated, and of the public’s trust. Perhaps a group that was overlooked in the whole affair, as is often the case in these types of scandals, was that of the unknowing employees. Although the story has been covered in great depth, its core issues highlight an important principle. When senior executives commit immoral acts and stray from core business values, the employees of the business itself are just as victimized as those directly mistreated.
Public and, more recently, internal private social networks facilitate rapid speed of communication and information sharing. Senior executives’ actions are filtered down to employees faster than can be imagined, and the fabric of an organization can be demoralized quicker than has been considered in previous generations.
An important instrument to mitigating the negative risks associated with unethical behaviour is corporate social responsibility (CSR). This self-regulating business concept has been implemented in large businesses for decades, and is used to embrace moral standards within the organization. It also promotes the idea that the company takes responsibility for its actions and remains accountable to all parties, be it the shareholders, consumers, or employees themselves. Although each business has its own approach, the general concept is that a positive workplace setting allows for more productive employees.
As social media has become part of the norm in society, key elements of CSR should be infused into a company’s public social media image, as well as their internal private communication policies. Just as private social networking will accelerate information sharing, responsible and ethical CSR practices can take advantage of this, thereby sustaining an encouraging and motivating workplace environment.