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30th Anniversary for Institute of Business Ethics



Business by Tuncay via flickr

The Institute of Business Ethics has celebrated its 30th Anniversary by publishing a survey on how trust in business can be regained

The IBE publishes today a survey showing that companies are perceived by the public as only interested in profits and neglect their broader obligation to deliver value. This is seen as a key reason why business has failed to restore trust.

The financial crisis, corporate scandals and levels of public distrust have lowered the standing of business. It is no longer acceptable to say business is simply about generating profits for shareholders. Business needs to show how it contributes to social well-being wherever it operates.

If business is to regain public trust, the IBE report suggests, a new approach to business leadership is needed which is based on consensus building, the ability to embed values and connect business to society.

Philippa Foster Back CBE, IBE Director said: “The age of deference is over. A succession of scandals has undermined trust, and business is too often seen as purely interested in profit. Leaders who see themselves as individual superstars will not be able to deal easily with this. We need to look for new models – leaders who are connected with their employees and society and use this talent to facilitate good and sustainable results.”

In its first three decades, the IBE has focused on helping companies with the practicalities of taking an ethical approach. In reaching its 30th Anniversary, the IBE is reflecting on the business ethics challenges in today’s environment through gathering the views of others.

To help identify its priorities for the coming period, the IBE sought the views of opinion-leaders from various walks of life, including company chairmen and directors, the media and others involved in the business world, accountants and lawyers as well as its trustees and senior advisers.

Each respondent was asked to answer three questions:

1.Why can’t business rebuild trust with the public?

The lack of trust in business was frequently ascribed to the public perception that it was too focused on profit, the recurrence of scandals, controversy over executive pay and the taxation policies of multinationals. Business must become better aligned with the interests of society from which it derives its license to operate. Furthermore, boards must develop a more coherent sense of what their duties as set out in Section 172 of the UK Companies Act 2006 actually are. Profit becomes legitimate when it is earned through the delivery of real value and the genuine assumption of real risk. It is not legitimate when it is achieved by extracting value from the very customers it purports to serve.

2. What are the three biggest ethical challenges facing business?

The question about the three biggest ethical challenges threw up a multitude of answers. While some homed in on specific issues like remuneration, taxation, the supply chain, diversity and cyber issues, others offered a more overarching view, choosing to focus on the need to build consensus within the organisation, to embed values that support positive choices, to be more open and to develop a track record of sticking to principles.

Two themes stood out: customer focus and the need for statesmanship. Business needs customer champions within the leadership team so that leaders can see their business actions through the eyes of those who actually use their products.

As to statesmanship, it was critical for business leaders to be able to work with others to build the basis of trust. We need to redefine successful leadership – engaged with ethical values, less iconic and with strength of character.

3. What should the IBE do over the next few years?

As to future priorities for the IBE, there was a view that the IBE should be more vocal, do more to get ahead of the trend, to steer public debate, to help business engage with civil society and reflect an international view. It should tease out the looming issues facing business and seek to include the views of younger generations in thinking around ethics. It should be supportive of greater openness by companies, helping them to develop principles on which to base their activities and providing them with a safe environment where companies can come together and learn from each other.

The report – The Institute of Business Ethics: The next thirty years – will be launched at an anniversary breakfast to be held at the Mansion House on Thursday 27th October – 30 years to the day since the IBE was launched at the same venue. The Lord Mayor, Alderman The Lord Mountevans and Sir Gerry Grimstone, Chairman of Standard Life and Deputy Chairman of Barclays, will join Philippa Foster Back CBE to talk about the changing business ethics landscape and what the future might look like.

IBE’s Director, Philippa Foster Back CBE, said: “In response to the survey, the IBE has set out an ambitious programme for the next few years particularly in reaching out to new audiences, and new entrants to the workplace, drawing on their fresh approach to business and technology to help these with more entrenched views. There is much for us to do.”

Peter Montagnon, IBE Associate Director and the report’s author, said: “Business needs to do more to rebuild trust and secure its place in society. This is not just a question of addressing specific problems like remuneration and taxation, important though these are, but of instilling the right mind-set throughout business organisations. The challenge for business leaders is to develop a culture which takes their organisation beyond mere compliance with regulation. Companies wishing to thrive in the longer-term need a sense of purpose and a set of values that are aligned with society and the more demanding expectations of the public.”



Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?



self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo |

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.


Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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