CFOs discuss business ethics at roundtable

Key Points

  • Prominent CFOs and leading ethics experts attended a roundtable facilitated by the AFR and Institute CEO Lee White FCA on business ethics
  • The roundtable explored the implications of not applying business ethics on a company’s bottom line
  • It also discussed high-profile cases such as Starbucks where public outrage over legal profit maximising strategies led to mass boycotts in the UK.

The Institute recently joined with Australian Financial Review to hold a roundtable discussion on the importance of business ethics to a company’s bottom line.

Directors, CFOs, lawyers and governance experts discussed the rising prominence of ethics in their decision-making processes and the implications of not applying business ethics in today’s socially mobile world.

Drawing on the Institute’s recent ethics paper, Institute CEO Lee White FCA led the conversation with AFR journalist Shaun Drummond to discuss business scenarios where what is legal has clashed with what the public has deemed to be ethical.

Roundtable participant and CFO of Transpacific Stewart Cummins FCA said, “The front page of the newspaper was the kind of old rule of thumb. More typically now you Google it... that’s the world we now live in.”

Another focus of the roundtable was the difficulty of doing business in developing countries where facilitation payments and bribes are still common place.

Caroline Cox, Partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, provided insights as to how companies try to manage practices such as this.

“Take the Indonesian example where the request for facilitation payments is quite commonplace,” said Cox. 

“A lot of industries, particularly in the resource industry, have banded together and as a group they are talking to government and asking them to change some of the laws so that payments can be made direct to a relevant government body, rather than having to deal with individuals.  The advantage of dealing with that together is you won’t have one company potentially disadvantaged by the government for taking that kind of stand.”

Roundtable participants included Robert Blakewell, CFO of Arrium, Stewart Cummins, CFO of Transpacific, Pru Bennett, Director of Corporate Governance and Responsible Investment of BlackRock, Peter Day from the Accounting Profession and Ethical Standards Board, Justine Campbell, CFO of Decmil Group, David Lombe, Chief Ethics Officer of Deloitte and Caroline Cox, Partner at Herbert Smith Freehills.

For more details about the CFO Roundtable check out this month’s Charter magazine.  

Article last updated 29 January 2014