stakeholders

All posts tagged stakeholders

Ethics and Federal Compliance Laws

Published July 24, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

Aristotle

To comprehend the topic of business ethics, it is important to identify the voluntary and legally required aspects of institutional practices and the behavior that supports it. Aristotle (384– 322 BC) believed that a person’s good or bad character was developed by habituation. In other words a person’s goodness or wickedness is developed as the result of repeatedly engaging in acts that have a common quality. These repetitious acts rely on an individual’s natural aptitudes and tendencies to gravitate towards righteous or immoral behavior (Aristotle, 2012).  In other words, the formation of a person’s character emerges by actions that are committed repeatedly in a certain manner and as a result of being guided or receiving direction externally to support these patterns. Once the behavior is understood by the individual, they can then choose to engage their free will. The continuation then, of the behavior, becomes a habit which over time translates into second nature. This demonstrates how a leader’s conduct and business practices cultivate a climate that is adopted by subordinates. During the Enron scandal for example, investigators discovered that Enron’s leaders developed a culture of deceit that was supported by their top executives, board members, and corporate attorneys, to gain the competitive edge and ensure capital gains.

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The Enron collapse revealed deep failings that existed in the American accounting system and in the operation of corporate boards. Enron and other widespread corporate accounting scandals resulted in Congress establishing the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). It was designed to create a federal oversight system to monitor corporate accounting practices by making financial fraud reporting a criminal offense. Boatright (2009) reported that the SOX Act also increased the penalties for executives that engage in criminal activity. In addition, SOX addressed a wide range of provisions to require corporate transparency in three major areas: financial reporting, corporate boardrooms, and criminal law (Boatright, 2009). Poor business decisions alone however, did not result in Enron’s downfall. What was cleverly disguised from stakeholders was insider plundering. Because of this, Congress feels that Federal oversight is needed. Investors rely heavily on financial reports and in turn these reports can become the vehicles that lead to fraud. For example, by presenting a false image, executives can cover poor performance outcomes to maintain their lavish lifestyles. SOX changed the way corporations address problems with accounting and auditing. It requires that every publicly traded organization establish an independent auditing committee that is solely responsible for detecting fraud. It also supports internal whistle blowing by mandating all companies incorporate policies to support employees reporting acts of fraud without fear of retaliation.

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CEOs careers are now on the line. They are required to sign off on company financial forms to ensure their processors have complied with all mandates. Many corporate chiefs complain about the amount of time and money that is invested to comply with SOX regulations, but most agree that it is worth the trouble to reassure investors. Ferrell et al. (2012) posit that in addition, the law requires corporations to design a code of conduct that includes transparency and accountability in financial reporting to stakeholders (Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell, 2013). Experts expect further misconduct to occur despite the regulatory laws because global competitors are not required to comply with these regulations. This means that more scrutiny is called for because the more integrated world markets become, the more difficult it is to compete on a global level when the playing field is uneven. In the meantime, only time will reveal the long term results.

References:

Aristotle. (2012). Ethics. Seattle, WA: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Boatright, J. (2009). Ethics and the Conduct of Business (Sixth ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell. (2013). Business ethics and social responsibility (9th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

Stakeholders and Stakeholder Orientation

Published July 10, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Corporations establish stakeholder orientation because of the influence that ethical issues and social responsibility play in their success and longevity. Boatright (2009) posits that in the traditional system of corporate governance the decision making power is controlled by the shareholders. In addition to control, shareholders are also entitled to the profits (Boatright, 2009). In a business environment however, there are many other groups that have a claim or “stake” in some respect to an organization’s products and services. In addition to the shareholders and investors, the organization’s stakeholders also include the employees, customers, suppliers, government agencies, communities and other special groups that have a claim in some form of the organization’s merchandise, operations, markets, or other areas of interest. This group is known as the primary stakeholders. The secondary stakeholders are the special interest groups and the media that also help influence the operation of a company without direct economic exchange. In this context, primary and secondary stakeholders are in a position to help define an organization’s ethical policies.

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In addition, stakeholders influence business outcomes and businesses influence stakeholders as well. Ferrell et al. (2013) describes this as a two-way relationship. Stakeholder orientation is identified as the manner in which an organization comprehends and tackles stakeholder demands with respect to ethical and social responsibility issues. The corporate governance process is comprised of three sets of actions that include: (a) the collection of information and data throughout the firm, (b) the disbursement and integration of the information, and (c) the reaction of the organization to the information (Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell, 2013). In short, stakeholder orientation implements methods to address and manage stakeholder concerns with respect to social responsibility to the community and the environment.

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Because stakeholders have the ability to withdraw their resources, they are critical to an organization’s success and are in a position to define important ethical issues. Organizations that develop effective stakeholder orientation plans identify the corporate culture, stakeholder groups, their issues, and create an open atmosphere for feedback. These are corporate governance strategies that help leaders comprehend the importance of social and ethical responsibility. For example, when activist groups with the help of the media (secondary stakeholders) disclosed to the public that Burger King’s beef supplier was destroying the Brazilian Rainforests, primary stakeholders (consumers, employees, and government agencies) united to boycott the organization to change their behavior. This movement caused Burger King to experience huge profit losses and as a result was forced to implement more ethical decisions into their business practices. The media exposé made stakeholders respond to the significant environmental issue which influenced a change in the business policies that governed the corporation. By making this change, Burger King showed it was a socially responsible corporation. This tactic help them regain their fair share of the market again. In this context, the primary and secondary stakeholders clearly affected how the corporation engaged in tactics of social responsibility with honesty and fairness to achieve positive outcomes. The rain forest was no longer being destroyed by Burger King’s business practices and as a result embraced Greener policies. These actions displayed they were socially responsible by engaging in ethical practices. In doing so, they won back the public’s trust and confidence in their brand.

References:

Boatright, J. (2009). Ethics and the Conduct of Business (Sixth ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell. (2013). Business ethics and social responsibility (9th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.