The PwC tax consulting scandal and the recent QANTAS public backlash are just the latest examples of corporations & institutions burning their social licence through poor ethical choices. Witness the recent fortunes of Volkswagen, Boeing and Wells Fargo along with the political price numerous governments have paid for missteps during COVID.
It’s easy to imagine these ethical failings as the result of a single Big F failure of strategy or governance. But in reality they result from an ethical fading that accumulates through everyday little f choices in many corners of the organisation, not only as to what people do but also the uncomfortable truths they choose to ignore.
When organisations play a short-term game and navigate the world with a transactional mindset, they risk of making themselves extinct. An organisation’s social licence to operate isn’t something that can be bought and traded. Social licence is founded in trust and is earned or burned in every human interaction.
Red Bus organisations try to rely on rules and polices to protect their social licence. But when they do so they turn employees into passive bystanders who see themselves removed from the consequence of their choices that negatively impact on customers, the community and other stakeholders.
Blue Bus organisations know that rules and policies risk putting the lid on making the right ethical choice. They know that at some point front-line employees encounter dilemmas where the rules run out or rules constrain people’s ability to make an even better choice. At the moment that determines whether the organisation can be trusted, the organisation needs to trust its employees.
Blue Bus organisations are not rule free but they are not constrained by them. They actively build a culture of active bystanders who own the ethical standards to which they will operate. A culture where employees at all levels have the courage to speak up to question what is the right ethical choice and leaders have the courage to listen.
On The Blue Bus™, everyone knows they are responsible for building social licence one choice at a time. Corporate social responsibility is baked into how people think and act, not a policy collecting dust on the wall.
Which Bus is driving your organisation’s social licence?