Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility: Why Giants Fall

By Ronald R. Sims | Go to book overview

9

Ethical Turnaround in Action: Warren Buffett at Salomon Brothers

INTRODUCTION

Over the past 15 years, “culture” has become a common way of thinking about and describing an organization's internal world—a way of differentiating one organization's “personality” from another. An organization's culture socializes people, and ethics is an integral part of the organization's culture. Therefore, building and reinforcing an ethical organization means systematically analyzing and managing all aspects of the organization's culture so that they support ethical behavior. However, often an organization's culture subtly (and other times not so subtly) conveys to members that certain actions are acceptable, even though they are unethical or illegal. For instance, when executives at General Electric, Westinghouse, and other manufacturers of heavy electrical equipment illegally conspired to set electrical prices in the early 1960s, the defendants invariably testified that they came new to their jobs, found price-fixing to be an established way of life, and simply entered into it as they did into other aspects of their job. One GE manager noted that every one of his bosses had directed him to meet with the competition: “It had become so common and gone on for so many years that I think we lost sight of the fact that it was illegal.” 1 To get back on the ethical road, an organization must change.

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