Author Sheila Stokes-White helps Tyneside businesses get to grips with ethics

Writer Sheila Stokes-White addressed business leaders and students on the findings from her book The Ethics of Work

Sheila Stokes-White
Sheila Stokes-White

Ethical practice in commerce has been highlighted at an event on Tyneside, as a report shows a “crisis of trust” in big businesses in the UK.

A ComRes poll for the Forum of Private Business (FPB) found that more than three-quarters of respondents think big businesses are likely to prioritise profits over high ethical standards.

The poll has come as The Journal’s Pay Fair campaign is encouraging firms to behave better to companies in their supply chain, specifically by making prompt payments.

An event organised by the Newcastle University Business School in partnership with the North East Institute of Business Ethics (NIBE), saw writer Sheila Stokes-White discussing her new book The Ethics of Work.

People listen to Sheila Stokes-White, during her talk at Newcastle University Business School
People listen to Sheila Stokes-White, during her talk at Newcastle University Business School

A former probation officer turned businesswoman, Mrs Stokes-White began looking at the subject in the context of the recession, when numerous stories emerged in the press of businesses behaving unethically. Struck by how different her own experiences had been, she went on to interview leading business figures who were known to combine integrity with success.

She said: “One reason for the book was to start a conversation. I also wanted to share some of my experiences set against a range of themes I felt were really important, and to test those out with other key leaders.”

One such theme was leadership itself, with Mrs Stokes-White pointing out that many people were mistaken about what it took to head a successful organisation.

Sheila Stokes-White, during her talk at Newcastle University Business School
Sheila Stokes-White, during her talk at Newcastle University Business School

Building an ethical culture, she said, was less about creating a brand, or a snappy slogan, and more about day-to-day behaviour and valuing people for their contributions.

“The other thing I felt ethical organisations needed to do was ensure they recruited the right people,” she said.

“One way of doing that is to be visible externally as an ethical company without necessarily saying that’s what you are.

“It’s a situation where the world knows your reputation and values, but you’re not necessarily advertising that all the time.

“People will want to work for you because of what you do and what that means they will able to do to.”

People listen to Sheila Stokes-White, during her talk at Newcastle University Business School
People listen to Sheila Stokes-White, during her talk at Newcastle University Business School

Offering advice to the business students present, Mrs Stokes-White said: “Really, really think about your values and why they are as they are. Know that if you start a company, everybody will know your values, whether you tell them or not.”

Through the Pay Fair campaign, The Journal is encouraging North East companies of all sizes to take a responsible and ethical approach to paying firms within their supply chain.

We are asking firms to sign NIBE’s Business Ethics Pledge, thereby agreeing to join with others to discuss the value of business ethics and to work with each other to transform their working environments for the better.

For more information, see http://www.nibe.org.uk/ .

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