The time to strengthen whistle-blowing mechanisms is now

by Liezl Groenewald | Published on 25 February 2019 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

Being in South Africa in the current social and economic climate, and especially participating in business here, is not for the fainthearted. According to the PWC Global Economic Crime Survey (PWC, 2018), South Africa has again reported the highest percentage of economic crime in the world. Asset misappropriation is listed as the most committed crime, and procurement fraud, and bribery and corruption, are third and fourth respectively. These findings tie neatly (and painfully) in with the evidence presented at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture (to name but one such inquiry) that huge amounts of government and shareholder assets have been, well, wasted. The effects of these crimes on society are too many and too great to mention in this article, but it is fair to say that they are felt by every citizen in one way or the other.

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Thoughts on Plato's Allegory of the Cave

by Grace Garland | Published on 25 January 2019 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

Learning, real learning, is transformative. Once you have learned a thing, something about you fundamentally changes, and you see the world “with new eyes”. This is, of course, a figure of speech, a metaphor, one that can be connected to a two-and-a half-thousand-year-old allegory about education by the Greek philosopher Plato. As the country digests the latest matric results, and all the subsequent commentary trying to make sense of them, I wish to share the famous story of Plato’s cave, along with some educational themes that arise from it.

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Let's just declare conflicts of interest and get on with it?

by Prof Leon van Vuuren | Published on 3 December 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

When TEI subject matter experts present on conflicts of interest during training workshops, the response from trainees is usually something along the lines of “the interest should be declared, and then it is fine”. The word ‘disclosed’ is also often used. Seldom do we hear the response that transparently declaring an identified conflict, without taking any further action, is not sufficient. Many people (and this applies even when we are working with members of a governing body or senior leadership team) hold the view that the fact that the conflict has been declared makes it totally acceptable to carry on with business as usual, despite the continued existence of the conflict. According to this approach, acknowledging conflicts makes them go away.

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Winning Ethics Initiative: "Quick Quiz"

by Daniel Udochi | Published on 25 October 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

As ethics practitioners around the world celebrated Global Ethics Day on 17 October, I found myself reflecting on the ethics journey of MTN Sudan, where I have been responsible for corporate governance, risk and compliance management for over two years. A major milestone was reached recently when our “Quick Quiz” initiative was recognised as the Best Ethics Initiative at The Ethics Institute’s (TEI) first ever Ethics Initiative Awards. What was particularly special was the fact that the final selection was made by colleagues and practitioners in the ethics field from both TEI and the Ethics Practitioners’ Association (EPA); what could be more satisfying than getting acknowledgement from peers?

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Marking a milestone: 100 programmes over 14 years, 881 certified ethics officers

by Prof Leon van Vuuren | Published on 25 September 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

The Ethics Institute (TEI) began offering the ethics officer certification programme (EOCP) in 2004, with the very first intake of just five attendees. During August 2018, 14 years later, we presented the EOCP for the 100th time. The EOCP is an intensive five-day in-class programme where attendees are taken through a comprehensive curriculum which is now in its fourth generation, and which is tailored for private-sector and public-sector groups. Our entire team of subject matter experts, including associates of the institute, is involved in teaching the various modules. Attendees then have 90 days to complete a practicum assignment in which they must demonstrate their ability to apply what they have learned to a real organisation. Those who achieve the required mark are certified as ethics officers and each is assigned a unique ‘EO’ number.

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Doing business with family - bench-marking of current practices

by Kris Dobie and Mary-Jane Ncube | Published on 27 August 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter


Theoretically, conflicts of interest are an easy matter to deal with: one should not allow personal interests to interfere with professional responsibilities. Put differently, one should always be able to take unbiased decisions in the best interest of the organisation, or in line with one’s professional duties. This might sound relatively straightforward for an ethically sensitive individual to do but, in reality, managing conflicts of interest at an organisational level can get complicated.

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What every ethics office needs: ambassadors and champions

by Grace Garland | Published on 27 July 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when there were no ethics officers in South Africa. Ethics management was, sort of, spread, among a number of different organisational roles such as internal audit or risk management, or it was tucked somewhere under the legal and compliance person’s job description. Today, while we cannot claim that all organisations have an ethics office/r, it is fair to say that ethics has become a material concern in many organisations, and there is a growing acceptance that specialist expertise is required to handle the responsibility.

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'Strength in numbers' applies to business too

by Celia Lourens | Published on 25 June 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

In the context of evolving global legislation and intensified support for the United Nations’ and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s missions of combating corruption, businesses face increased pressure to comply with ethical standards, rules and laws.

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The ethics of respect

by Mary-Jane Ncube | Published on 25 April 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

Respect is a topical issue for people of all ages and in all spheres. Whether it is at preschool, in the home or workplace, we all have an innate expectation that we are owed respect by those around us. This is especially true of the people whose opinions we value most, such as our partners, our children, our co-workers and our peers.

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South Africa as an organisation: ethical or not?

by Thobile Madonsela | Published on 26 March 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

Let’s imagine South Africa as an organisation, where everyone in society is an employee, members of parliament are the senior management team and the president is the Chief Executive Officer. Then, let’s think back and ask: what sort of work environment have we been experiencing in this organisation in recent years? Or, to frame the question a little differently: has this organisation had an ethical culture? 

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Cape Town, meet "epistemic responsibility"

by Grace Garland | Published on 26 February 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

Our beliefs are powerful, not just because they inform our own behaviour, but also because they have an influence on the beliefs and behaviour of others. The duty to strive to believe the truth, rather than a comfortable falsehood, is known as epistemic responsibility. And it appears to be something else of which Cape Town is in short supply.

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Understanding and combating Counterproductive Work Behaviours

by Dr Paul Vorster | Published on 25 January 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

Counterproductive work behaviour, or CWB, is defined as “…intentional acts by employees that harm organisations or their stakeholders” (Spector et al., 2006, p. 30). CWBs include numerous destructive behaviours that may harm the organisation directly, or negatively affect its reputation, stakeholders, and/or ethical culture.

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