Gasp! BAT Joins the Institute of Business Ethics

Article excerpt

Byline: GADFLY

AND a big wheezy welcome to the latest member of the Institute of Business Ethics.

Yes, folks, light up and blow a fat smoke ring to salute the arrival of the institute's new member, British American Tobacco, whose deputy chairman, one K. Clarke MP, has been so much in the news of late. (Of course, dear old BAT has also been attracting publicity in its own right, spluttering indignantly against suggestions that it has been turning a blind eye to the smuggling of its cigarettes.) Doesn't the IBE feel a bit uncomfortable having BAT among its number? Not a bit, according to new director Philippa Foster Back. 'I was one of the trustees when the decision was made to allow BAT to join the IBE,' she says unflinchingly. 'We looked very carefully at the arguments and at the company's prospectus.

'There was no reason to exclude it. These things are never black and white.

We are about trying to persuade organisations to behave ethically.' That said, fortysomething Foster Back, the replacement for Ken Rushton who fled the moral maze to head the FSA's listing authority, knows full well that BAT's membership of the IBE is bound to rattle a few cages.

She also knows that in her new job she will need all the inherited toughness of her famous explorer grandfather, Frank Debenham, who was involved in - and survived - Captain Robert Falcon Scott's fateful trip to the South Pole in 1912.

But Foster Back, formerly EMI group treasurer, is used to facing the music.

She chairs the Friends of Scott Polar Research Institute founded by her grandfather, and is thus immersed in the icy waters of polar politics, which are riven with disputes about the interpretation of history.

By comparison, decisions about what is ethical in business and what is not should be child's play.

Caught in the slip ...

GADFLY is naturally reluctant to dwell upon grief. But he feels compelled to relate a tale concerning England's recent cricketing tragedy at the Oval.

The corporate box occupied by investment company Guinness Peat Group was predictably awash with tears as England was ground into the dirt by Australia.

Most striking of all, even New Zealand-born Blake Nixon, UK chief of GPG, wasn't happy.

'I support two teams,' says Nixon. 'The first is New Zealand and the second is whoever is playing against Australia.' So Nixon could sympathise with almost every chant from the predominantly England-supporting crowd. Almost.

When Headingley hero Mark Butcher emerged to bat, fans wearing white aprons and butchers' hats chanted: 'There's only one Mark Butcher!' Alas, this was demonstrably untrue for GPG's investment manager. His name? You guessed: Mark Butcher.

SCARCELY a day goes by without a contract killing in the new-look corporate Russia.

There haven't been so many unaccounted-for deaths since the rampages of Stalin. …