By Caninnah Mapena, MD, Rockwell Automation Africa
The topic of business ethics is an ever-growing feature of business school courses, boardroom discussions, and corporate onboarding programmes. Consumers and employees are increasingly seeking ethical companies to associate with, to the point where ‘ethics’ have become a selling point – a buzzword.
But why must there be a distinction between ethics, and business ethics? Your ethics kick in when you wake up, not when you get to your desk.
Integrity in the workplace
If someone doesn’t act with integrity in their home and private life, they probably won’t at work, either. At the same time, a set of values written on a company website or boardroom poster does not make a company ethical. For both the business and the individual, it comes down to behaviour as a holistic part of our identity.
I have worked for many multinational companies in my career, and I have learnt to look beyond the mission statement. I have learnt that it is the culture of the company, and the individuals it employs, which make or break an “ethical” business.
When I first joined Rockwell Automation, I asked about culture, I observed how people acted and interacted, and I was pleased to learn that my colleagues are walking the talk. Ethics has become a core part of our identity. But how do we get to this point? How do we foster ethics and integrity in a meaningful way?
The power to shape
I believe the key is leading by example. Sound simple? Wait, there’s more. Our leadership focus must be on our young professionals. Of course, we want to be role models for our entire team or organisation, but if I think about where I turn to when I have a hard decision to make, I often find the solution in lessons I learnt very early in my career. These are formative years for any professional, and we should not underestimate the power that leaders have to shape our young team members.
In my early roles, I did not learn from what I was told to do. I learnt from what I saw happening in front of me. My leadership style and my attitude towards ethical practices were shaped back then. We must all consider how we approach mentorship, and how we set examples for the next generation of leaders.
Advice to remember
Africa is facing a stigma as being a hard place to do business – with questionable business practices and a scourge of corruption. But our continent is not the only one to face these challenges. I feel positive about the fact that we are setting ourselves apart by fostering a culture of reporting and whistleblowing.
I would like to encourage our young professionals to have the courage to call out unethical practices. I learnt early in my career that when you see something going on, there is no one coming to save the day. It is up to us individuals to raise our hands, to do what is right.
It is not always easy, but it is important to be true to yourself and your values. The legacy you leave is the foundation you start today.
Canninah was recently recognized in the Rockwell Automation 2021 Sustainability Report for her role in handling multiple ethics and compliance challenges within the company. She has also fostered a “speak up” mindset and organized town hall sessions for employees, encouraging candid discussions with her, our Ombuds, and other business leaders.
Take the first step towards working with a partner, which has a culture underpinned by good governance and strong ethics - contact Rockwell Automation. Alternatively, visit our website for more information about our services and expertise.