03 December 2013 11:10 [Source: ICB]
While most people recognize that ethics are important, they often prefer not to talk about it. “Ethics is a challenging topic, partly because it seems dry, and partly because some people believe it is focused exclusively on others,” says Dr. Bruce Weinstein, also known as “The Ethics Guy”.
Weinstein: the key is to be prepared
The five principles are straightforward. The first is to do no harm. “We associate ‘Do No Harm’ with the healthcare industry. The fact is, however, that this principle applies to everyone, no matter what they do,” he asserts.
For chemical distributors, it is of critical importance, because many distributors deal with hazardous materials and must ensure that they are stored, handled and shipped properly. Weinstein notes that NACD’s member-voted requirement to practice Responsible Distribution® and continuously improve performance in protecting health, safety, security, and the environment, is an ideal example of how to apply this principle.
Ethics goes further than just doing no harm. Ethically intelligent chemical distributors also strive to make things better by using their knowledge and skills to benefit others and themselves.
The ultimate mission of chemical distributors - getting chemicals from here to there - is a direct application of the second principle of ethical intelligence into practice. Weinstein says: “The materials you’re distributing seek to improve the lives of others in material ways.”
The third principle concerns respect and has three components: maintaining confidentiality, telling the truth, and keeping promises. Weinstein points to Code V in the NACD Responsible Distribution’s Code of Management Practice, which addresses job procedures and training.
“Ethically intelligent training emphasizes how critical it is for everyone involved in chemical distribution to keep confidential things confidential, to be honest, and to be true to one’s word,” says Weinstein.
The fourth principle involves being fair and giving others their due. As an example of this concept, Weinstein points to the sixth Responsible Distribution Guiding Principle, which requires that NACD members cooperate in resolving problems created by the past handling and disposal of hazardous chemicals.
“Cooperation involves reaching out to others and making sure that their position and needs are considered, which ultimately translates into fair treatment,” he observes.
Time management is yet another important aspect of the fourth principle, because “if we spend so much time on one area of our lives that we’re not able to meet the responsibilities we have in other areas, that’s not unfortunate; it’s unfair, and therefore ethically unintelligent,” Weinstein says.
POWERFUL AND EFFECTIVE
Last but not least, the fifth principle is to care for others and yourself. Weinstein often demonstrates a simple but powerful way you can put this principle into practice today in his speeches (he is speaking at NACD’s 42nd Annual Meeting in November).
“I get emails all the time from people who attended my talks years ago but who still remember the amazing exercise we did,” Weinstein says. “You won’t believe how little effort it takes to make a big difference in someone else’s life - and your own, too.”
Of course, Weinstein observes, people do make mistakes, and businesses, including chemical distributors, are run by people, so problems will always arise.
“The key to ethical intelligence is to be prepared to respond to such situations and to mitigate any consequences. Second, it’s essential to inform the relevant parties about the issues, to resolve those issues, to apologize when appropriate, and to take measured steps to avoid repeating the mistakes,” he points out.
NACD’s Responsible Distribution program, which addresses all of these factors, according to Weinstein, reflects the five principles of ethical intelligence, and these principles are also the foundation of the policies of NACD’s member companies.
Bruce Weinstein is a speaker at NACD’s 42nd Annual Meeting
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