Why now, more than ever before, is it important for organisations to ‘do the right thing’?   This is the theme of this year’s World Quality Week #WQW22 – Quality Conscience: Doing the right thing.  Programme Lead, Chris Smith PCQI, asks why corporate responsibility matters and the roles organisations, stakeholders and quality managers can play in shaping ethical behaviour and creating value in corporate responsibility strategy.


In a climate of high-profile government and corporate scandals and wrongdoing such as false accounting, sexual harassment, data privacy, nepotism, discrimination etc. organisations are under pressure to prioritise ethics within their operations. There is growing recognition that demonstrating good ethical practice is not only important for company reputation; it can ultimately boost the bottom line.


However, is this a sufficient driver for organisations to change?  It is often stated that staff find it necessary to compromise ethical values in order to succeed in their organisation, and managers often demonstrate unethical behaviour.


While many organisations have a wide array of ethical related standards, policies and codes of conduct, upholding ethical values should be the responsibility of every member of an organisation, and doing the right thing goes beyond following a code of conduct. 


So how do organisations ensure that ethics are core to the way they do business at every level?

It is important that ethics is strongly communicated through the organisation’s recruitment, training and development, policies and procedures and perhaps even providing support networks such as ethics helpline, recognition scheme etc.


Ultimately, the most influential factor in developing an ethical organisation is the leadership team’s commitment to doing the right thing.


I believe the leaders most consistently reinforce the organisation’s values through their day-to-day actions. Failing to address even a minor situation in which those values are potentially compromised sends a signal that the values are not taken seriously by the organisation.


Behaving with integrity also becomes more important as you rise up the ranks of the company, since the impact of misconduct or bad decision-making has much more severe consequences at the top.


Other methods of creating an ethical workforce include providing mechanisms for employees to speak up about ethical issues, as well as running training on how to enact the organisation’s principles. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and organisations need to combine several different practices.


Unethical workplace behaviour and corporate scandal has an undoubtedly negative impact on trust in businesses and ultimately the organisations’ reputation. 


Employees rarely set out to break the rules and behave unethically, and businesses have many safeguards in place. Yet, unethical behaviour still occurs. The challenge for businesses is to reinforce its ethical values in a consistent way…


What role do organisational values play?

Organisational mission statements and principles can be important signposts for employees, but they must be embedded throughout organisational practices to have an effective impact.


What can line managers and leaders do? 

Line managers need to set the tone to create the necessary social norms. These social norms will have a powerful influence on actions, so therefore Line managers must role model ethical behaviour. 


Corporate responsibility, also known as corporate social responsibility or business sustainability, is about the ethics which drive an organisation’s activities and how it operates so that it’s viable over the long term.


Corporate responsibility is also about the impact an organisation makes on society, the environment and the economy.


These two factors are causally linked because a business that damages the systems on which it depends will ultimately be unsustainable.


Businesses require an effective corporate responsibility programme that contributes positively to all stakeholders as well as adding value for the organisation itself, and ensures it operates in a sustainable way.


The factors that can influence corporate responsibility include legal and voluntary measures, and partnerships with external agencies.


Organisation’s must recognise their activities impact on society, the environment, and the economy, as well as on their own workforce. Value creation is, therefore, not just a matter of finances. Indeed, the traditional shareholder value approach to business, and the short-termism that often goes with this, are central reasons for the global economic crisis and numerous environmental and other ethical corporate disasters. An organisation that exercises its corporative responsibility will be committed to maximise the positive impacts of its operations for all its stakeholders.


Why does corporate responsibility matter?

Corporate responsibility matters because wider societal issues are important to people. In ‘doing the right thing’ by their stakeholders and sharing the same values, organisations will themselves see benefits from brand enhancement and reputation, to building employee engagement. It therefore makes good business sense to operate sustainably.


What is social value?

Social value can be seen as a key driver for business as it considers more than just financial transactions and can include happiness, health, well-being, inclusion, and empowerment. However, it is often difficult to measure but is ‘of value to people in society’. Social value goes beyond traditional corporate responsibility since it actually drives core business purpose rather than sitting alongside it.


Stakeholders in corporate responsibility strategy

At the heart of any organisation’s strategy are its different stakeholders, and how to create value for each. The long and short-term interests of customers should be considered, as well as employees and workers throughout the wider value chain, and also the general public. This informs an organisation’s understanding of the potential value it creates or the damage it could cause for employees, local communities, customers and the environment, as well as shareholders.


Collaboration and Partnerships

Understanding stakeholder interests is difficult and must be proactively managed. Typically, this would be as a result of stakeholder analysis and formulating specific key stakeholder strategies. These will be far ranging as an organisation’s potential impact and responsibilities will greatly depending on their size, sector and the nature of their work.

Consequently, corporative responsibility strategies can benefit from working in collaboration and/or partnership with government bodies and non-governmental organisations that protect or represent stakeholder groups, so that the organisation’s local and global responsibilities can be appropriately reflected within its business strategy.


Quality Management and Ethics

Quality Managers can play a key role in shaping ethical behaviour in terms of product/service quality for the whole organisation system.


Total Quality Management (TQM) can be defined “as an integrative philosophy of management for continuously improving the quality of products and processes”. TQM is based on the core values of integrity and ethics and should therefore be a key driver in quality improvement efforts.


Business excellence can be defined as “the systematic use of quality management principles and tools in business management, to improve performance based on the principles of customer focus, stakeholder value, and process management”.


TQM and business excellence are two philosophies, which together can enable a culture of ethical actions and quality improvement. These two philosophies complement each other as they are aimed at helping a business secure a well-developed and stable market share. The essential principles strengthen a business and allow them to have increased profits through motivated employees and reduced costs, among others.


The global challenge is to ensure business excellence by; listening to internal and external stakeholders, to produce products and services while balancing ethics and corporate responsibility.



Chris Smith, PCQI

Programme Lead, rove.



If you’re interested in studying one of our CQI and IRCA Quality Management courses, you can find out more here.