Integrity and Dis-integrity: Business Responsibility Lessons from Islam
Dave Bamber is research co-ordinator at Liverpool Hope University Business School and, along with researcher Cedric Edwin, has examined Islamic Corporate Social Responsibility and Islamic Business Ethics in the UK and Pakistan.
As neither are Muslim, they were keen to know what lessons could be learned from Islam about Business Ethics. They reviewed the Islamic texts, the Quran and the Hadith, to draw out Islamic teachings on Business Ethics and frame those insights in the light of current Western academic literature and the prevalent economic contexts.
They also interviewed thirty Muslim business owners: ten in the UK (Liverpool) and twenty in Pakistan (Lahore and Peshawar). Similar understandings of business ethics were presented by the business owners in the UK and Pakistan. However there were differences arising from the differing contexts of each city.
Muslim business owners in Liverpool, being part of an ethnic minority, felt they needed to emphasize their ethical practices derived from their faith more so in Liverpool than in the other two cities, being located within a Muslim state.
However, some business owners based in Lahore also emphasized the rich cultural tapestry, interwoven with an artistic and spiritual diversity, of their city and people that went beyond diversity of religions. In comparison with Peshawar, businesses in Lahore are generally more cosmopolitan with many businesses familiar with dealing with businesses abroad. Businesses surveyed in Peshawar tended to deal only with businesses within Pakistan.
Dave identified five Islamic ethical tenets which can be drawn from the Islamic texts: unity, equilibrium, free will, responsibility and benevolence.
These five tenets apply across six spheres of influence: the economy, society, the environment, employee rights, human rights and product safety.
Unity represents the concept of “tawhid” and is the vertical dimension of Islam. It combines into a homogeneous whole all the different aspects of a Muslim’s life: economic, political, religious and social, and stresses the idea of consistency and order throughout. Their study showed that the respondents often related Unity to Human Rights and Labour Rights, which are integral to CSR practices.
The tenet of Equilibrium “adl” was mainly related to Economic Responsibility by the business owners and describes the horizontal dimensions of Islam, which relates to the all-embracing harmony in the universe: to maintain a sense of balance between those who have and those who have not, stressing the importance of giving and reproaching conspicuous consumption.
According to Islam, mankind has been granted the free will to steer one’s own life as Allah’s vicegerent on earth, but with a free will that does not compromise the other four tenets. Notwithstanding the fact that mankind is completely regulated by the law governing creation, mankind has been endowed with the ability to think and form judgements, to adopt whatever course of life is wished and, most importantly, to act in accordance with a chosen code of conduct. Unlike other creatures in the universe, mankind can choose how to behave: ethically or unethically.
Islam rejects unlimited freedom as it implies no responsibility or no accountability. To meet the dictates of “adl” and unity, people need to be accountable for their actions. Hence, Islam stresses the concepts of both moral responsibility and accountability for one’s actions.
The tenet of benevolence interconnects across Economic Responsibility, Social Responsibility, Labour Rights and Human Rights. Benevolence is seen as the most distinct and unique concept within Business Ethics and, when practiced, will go well beyond many established notions of Corporate Social Responsibility. Benevolence (“ihsan”) or generosity or kindness to others is defined as any act which benefits people other than those from whom the act precedes without any obligation. Hence, kindness and generosity are encouraged in Islam even across the realms of business.
Dave argued that integrity matters as it encompasses universal values that in themselves promote value in the economy, sustain the environment, promote social welfare and uphold the rights of people. Integrity is a coherent fusion of unity, equilibrium, free will, responsibility and benevolence.
Conversely, Dave and Cyril defined dis-integrity as an incoherent mix that endorses and maintains fragmentation (lack of unity), lack of responsibility (either at personal, business or state levels), lack of benevolence (solely self-seeking interests), where the conscience is compromised (lack of free will) and where there is instability (a combination of no equilibrium, plus constant danger with a lack of opportunity).
The definitions of integrity and dis-integrity can be used not only to analyse various scenarios but also to provide guidance for action for the governance of businesses and for governments.
Economies globally need to consider the role of unity in business dealings. This does not necessarily mean an end to competition, but rather a refocusing of business activities so they are not seen in financial isolation, but rather viewed also as opportunities to be responsible across several spheres and in terms of benevolence, not just self seeking interests.
Where there is lack of unity then work will need to be undertaken seeking points of contact where agreement and understanding can be reached.
Trust building will be a step towards unity and removal of the fragmentations and that unity will be a commitment to the improvement of all. Dave said there was a plethora of academic business literature that advises on trust building.
It is also well documented, that where there is a paucity of opportunities, coupled with the constant threat of dangers that might manifest themselves, ranging from loss of job to threat to life, then serious problems occur, starting with those most vulnerable (such as the young and those with mental illness) who will be under even greater threat.
Where there is instability there will be a lack of balance between the rich and the poor, whether in social, monetary or opportunity terms. Where there is instability either within business organizations or within or between states then policies that promote the equilibrium need to be set in place, which implies removing the danger and providing opportunities.
For a long time devotees of Business and Management Studies ranging from undergraduate students to international managers have used SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis and PEST (Political, Economic, Social and Technological) analysis to understand the business and provide strategic direction.
Dave suggested though that when concerning business ethics, academic literature until recently has largely focused on trying to resolve ethical dilemmas and resolve difficulties once they have occurred.
Hence their innovative proposal to use the Integrity Tool-Kit: FRUBS to focus on solutions: to help analyse and understand how ethical business can be promoted and sustained.
Free Will 1) How can the use of free will be supported and promoted?
Responsibility2) How can responsibility be promoted at personal, business and state levels?
Unity 3) How can we promote unity and remove fragmentation?
Benevolence 4) How can benevolence and non-self seeking interests be promoted and sustained?
Stability 5) How can we provide equilibrium: remove dangers and provide opportunities?
How can a specific Stakeholder Management Theory based on the Common Good Principle be compatible with Catholic Social Thought
Gianfranco Rusconi, President of the Italian Chapter of EBEN and Head of the Department of Business Administration at the University of Bergamo, where he is Professor of Accounting, Business Ethics and Social Accounting, illustrated how stakeholder thinking can be a potential instrument for pursuing the common good as it is understood in Catholic Social Thought (CST).
Gianfranco initially discussed a form of stakeholder thinking known as Stakeholder Management Theory (SMT) and then examined general issues of SMT as a genre of managerial theories or managerial tool, linking ethical and managerial issues while refusing every Separation Thesis (Freeman 1994) that cannot be considered as a general ethical theory (Phillips et al 2003).
His aim was to build a specific theory of the stakeholder genre based on the Common Good Principle that avoids methodological individualism and relativism, while saving its managerial links with the approaches of other stakeholder theories. He said some CST scholars have in fact emphasized positive aspects of the stakeholder approach but have also expressed reservations about its compatibility with the non relativistic and non individualistic view of Catholic Social Thought.
Gianfranco referred to Antonio Argandoña’s 1998 work to show that it is possible to have a specific common good based stakeholder theory, by accepting both some hard ethical assumptions and the ethical incompatibility of this common good based stakeholder theory with others of the stakeholder genre.
Common good based SMT cannot share all the ethical bases or practical consequences of other theories of the SMT genre, but a common managerial approach (the stakeholder “idea”) can be found in all SMT theories. Gianfranco proposed a specific SMT theory model which accepted the fundamental ethical principle of the common good while avoiding the risks of individualism and relativism.
Sustainable Development – Integrity of Creation and Catholic Social Thought
Prof Jim Wishloff, an award-winning teacher (and ice hockey fan) from the University of Lethbridge in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, discussed Sustainable Development from the perspective of Catholic Social Thought (CST). Jim’s study included a detailed examination of the historical resources of CST undertaken to uncover the distinctive contribution the tradition makes to the addressing of environmental issues and the implications of this for the proper conduct of business.
Jim opened by tracing out the development of the integrity of creation as a theme in CST. The environment may have become topical in recent decades, but Jim pointed out that since the publication of Rerum Novarum by Leo XIII in 1891, contemporary Catholic Social Thought has always dealt with critical questions regarding the right ordering of the world’s goods.
“Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.”
–Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2415
Jim continued to prove that such thinking was not new by quoting from Heinrich Pesch who wrote around 1900:
“The preservation and development of life, the development of physical and intellectual capacities occurs with the help of things which are round about us. The world is our domicile, our garden, our workplace. It serves the intellect as the object of its investigation, and it leads to the knowledge and love of the Creator. From it we can and ought to fulfill our lives and our potential, and derive those objects which we need for our livelihood.”
“The world will always be God’s property. Nobody and nothing can alter that essential subordination to God, since it is based on the title of original creation and on the fact that God continues to sustain it. God would have to stop being God if he wanted to surrender what is his most exalted possession– his ultimate dominion over the world which he created.”
“[Man] cannot wheel and deal as he pleases with the world of creation.”
Jim said the various symptoms of environmental distress have become increasingly evident, there has been a noticeable increase in emphasis on the ecological question in CST. The expansion of the focus of CST to include environmental concerns could not be timelier. Our present course of development is markedly unsustainable.
Asking what does God’s gift of a world with an “inbuilt order”, a world with a “grammar” (Caritas in Veritate, 48) of its own, mean for the responsible use of our freedom in enterprise is an effort to address this reality. He quoted further from the much more recent Caritas in Veritate,(48):
The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole… In nature, the believer recognizes the wonderful result of God’s creative activity, which we may use responsibly to satisfy our legitimate needs, material or otherwise, while respecting the intrinsic balance of creation.
Nature expresses a design of love and truth. It is prior to us and it has been given to us by God as the setting for life. Nature speaks to us of the Creator (Rom. 1:20) and his love for humanity. Nature is… a gift of the Creator who has given it an in built order… the natural environment is a wondrous work of the Creator containing a “grammar” which sets forth ends and criteria for its wise use, not its reckless exploitation.
Jim then broadened his analysis to consider the challenges facing economics as a profession or science, quoting Charles M.A. Clark:
Economics as an intellectual discipline, has gone from studying the actual economy in order to move it towards normative goals, to studying a hypothetical economy in the hope it yields insights that will help us promote normative goals, to studying an imaginary economy in order to justify an imaginary economy.
Jim concluded his presentation with a discussion of Integral Human Development – “the development of all men and of the whole man” in which he said the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity (the unique mission of the family), justice, the common good and the universal destination of goods were unchanging.
Managing For Integrity: Aesthetic, Ethical And Religious Dimensions The Work Of Søren Kierkegaard
Abe Zakhem and Daniel Palmer are not only Associate Professors of Philosophy at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, and Kent State University at Trumbull respectively, but also active organisation management consultants, with recent work in developing ethics training and management programs for mortgage loan originators. Abe had previously worked in private industry as a Chief Operating Officer and Senior Management Consultant so their practical applications of philosophical principles contained particular significance, in this case the writings of Danish philosopher, theologian and religious author Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813 –1855).
The idea that managers ought to somehow promote organisational integrity is not a new one. It has, however, recently become an idea closer to the forefront of managerial concerns. Despite a considerable degree of imprecision, “managing for integrity” seems to reflect at least three interrelated assumptions.
- Having integrity in some way contributes to the wholeness or completeness of a person and leads to consistency in thought and action over time.
- This wholeness or completeness derives from having a defined and wholehearted interest in abiding by the right sorts of ethical principles and values. When conducting business, persons with integrity do not, so to speak, check their ethics at the door and also seek to meet ethical demands beyond mere compliance to the letter of the law.
- Organisational integrity is assumed to be achieved by aligning and unifying individual, company, and societal ethics in ways that promote a positive ethical-organisational culture.
Some rather characteristic suggestions for how to actually promote organisational integrity, included in the US Federal Sentencing Guidelines and commonly reflected in practice, include:
- Managers should understand and define socially acceptable ethical expectations, principles, and values. These expectations, principles, and values should be documented in company mission statements, policies, and procedures.
- Steps should be taken to bring ethical principles and values to bear in practice, which includes executive commitment and leadership, adequate resource allocation, communication and training, and positive and negative forms of motivation.
- Measurable objectives based on ethical principles and values should be established and progress made towards meeting objectives tracked. Companies ought to continually improve organisational ethical performance.
- Instances of unethical and/or illegal conduct and failures to meet defined objectives should be subject to some form of corrective and preventive action.
- Additionally, larger and more influential companies should seek to export similar integrity based programs down their supply chains and even across their industry.
Collectively, these sorts of suggestions seem to reflect a process and quality oriented style of organisational management. While very sympathetic to quality and process oriented management principles, they criticised the limitations of these principles and associated methods when applied to understanding the role of integrity in organisational-ethical management.
The basis of this criticism and subsequent implications for developing a more comprehensive view of organisational ethics come from a rather unlikely source, the work of Søren Kierkegaard. Who they suggested would have concluded that integrity requires an ongoing transformation and synthesis of the aesthetic, ethical and religious dimensions of human existence.
Kierkegaard’s conception of selfhood as a relational synthesis was initially explained with his concept of despair and his articulation of the stages on life’s way. He said Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.
It was then suggested how a Kierkegaardian inspired understanding of integrity, along with more specific insights on ethical systemization, the role of passion and indirect communication and professional vocation, can be translated into meaningful organisational practice.