Business ethics debated in the big end of town
The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney Campus
Do business and ethics mix? Can you be a nice guy and still run a business? Are we necessarily governed by the market?
Telstra chief, David Thodey, Sydney Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, former Wallabies Captain, John Eales and marketing expert John Moore were put on their toes yesterday when asked these questions at a Business Ethics Q&A lunch hosted by The University of Notre Dame Australia.
Members of the business, academic and religious communities of Sydney were invited to the event to debate and discuss the topic, God or Mammon: Need or Greed in the Big End of Town?, and to challenge the speakers on crucial issues in the business world.
David Thodey responded to a question about being a nice guy and was adamant that being successful was not a matter of whether a person was “nice” or not but about making the right choices for your business, customers and staff. He also argued that making profits cannot be a bad thing, “You can make profit for the common good, but it’s when you make excessive profits that you become unstuck.”
One of the liveliest discussions of the day revolved around Cardinal Pell’s answer when asked whether it was ethical to produce arms or promote gambling and tobacco.
“I would argue that it’s not unethical to produce arms; I think you can produce arms morally. You might say in some cases it is necessary. We are a peaceful country. If we were unarmed that would be an enticement to evil people. The best way to stay as we are is to be strong and effectively armed so I think you could make the case for the morality of some arms production,” he said.
He also spoke of gambling being bad when it destroyed people’s lives, but did not see it as unethical if kept under control: “Only when it becomes an addiction, threatening the well being of oneself and one’s family, does it become a sin”.
The event was organised by the University’s Centre for Faith Ethics and Society as part of its mission to promote the study of faith and ethics and their integration into the broader life of society.
The Centre’s Director, Associate Professor Sandra Lynch, said the event generated vibrant and well-focused discussion on a variety of issues.
“Such issues as the balance between achieving profitability and contributing to the common good ought to be debated in a civilised society. We hope that ongoing debate of this kind will raise the level of ethical awareness in our communities and influence the decision making which occurs in business and the political sphere of life.
“CFES intends to follow-up this lunch and discussion panel with other events in 2011 which will continue this important conversation,” said Professor Lynch.
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Saunders, Moira, "Business ethics debated in the big end of town" (2010). Media Release Archive. 150.