The courage to be ethical

We are in the last days of 2015. Feeling exhausted after a demanding year is quite natural and appropriate. But I also sense that there is generally a low morale doing the rounds. And understandably so. The economy is slow, too many people can’t find jobs, there is wide-spread student and labour unrest, the local currency is devaluating against the world’s major currencies. And so on…

We are in the last days of 2015. Feeling exhausted after a demanding year is quite natural and appropriate. But I also sense that there is generally a low morale doing the rounds. And understandably so. The economy is slow, too many people can’t find jobs, there is wide-spread student and labour unrest, the local currency is devaluating against the world’s major currencies. And so on…

There is however often a link between a lack of morality (or ethics) and low morale. People finding themselves in situations characterized by a lack of ethics, tend to lose morale. They feel demoralized by the fact that they are working in an unethical environment.

We often see how employees of companies who are going through a scandal, feel humiliated and lose morale. They often jump ship if they get the opportunity to do so.

The issue of low morale was underlined in a recent survey conducted by EthicsSA. With the financial support of Massmart-Walmart we conducted a survey amongst more than 6 000 citizens to gauge their perceptions of bribery. Although we found that only about 20% of South Africans paid a bribe year, the vast majority of people (almost 80%) believed that it is not possible to get through everyday life without paying bribes. (You can read an article on citizens’ perceptions of bribery elsewhere in this newsletter.)

This finding is alarming, as it indicates that people might be losing courage to resist attempts at bribery, because they assume that it has become a way of life in South Africa.

Ethical courage is always needed. But we need even more of it in times when the morale and morality have declined to the extent that we are currently experiencing.

It is for this reason that we have decided to focus on the theme of ‘A time for courageous ethical leadership’ at our 6th Annual Conference in 2016. We have succeeded to get leaders with a reputation for ethical courage such as the Adv. Thuli Madonsela (Public Protector), Mr Kimi Makwetu (Auditor General) and Mr Brand Pretorius (former CEO of McCarthy ) to share their experiences of courageous ethical leadership with us. (You can read more about the conference elsewhere in this newsletter.)

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our members for your loyal support in 2015. It was a pleasure and privilege to work with our dedicated members in 2016. Thank you for making a meaningful difference in our common pursuit of building an ethical society.

I wish you a relaxing and invigorating holiday. And bon courage for 2016.

Deon Rossouw
CEO: EthicsSA