Today, the Gulf region is truly a global crossroads of people and cultures, and that diversity greatly enriches the local business environment. Yet it’s not just the Gulf’s geographic location—or strong public infrastructure—that makes it a great place for global commerce. We have established sound business ethics based on mutual respect, transparency, and accountability.
Recent market pressures have brought an even sharper focus to this subject. Many companies have faced hard times in the last few months. There are some who have chosen to try and capitalize on a difficult market through unethical practices at an organizational level. It has also been harder for some upstanding companies to complete their regular due-diligence given the physical restrictions in place because of COVID-19. Moreover, with people not meeting in person as regularly, some business leaders may find it challenging to maintain a strong corporate culture and solidify shared beliefs in the same ways as before.
In EY’s recent Global Integrity Report, for example, 90% of respondents believed that disruption as a result of COVID-19 poses a risk to ethical business conduct.
In such a disruptive environment, it is all the more important that businesses large and small stand by their core values, avoiding short-term gains at the expense of long-held principles. We would all do well to remember that value-based decisions contribute significantly to future business success. As experts at McKinsey have noted, decisions made during this pandemic will shape a corporation’s identity long after COVID-19 has been quelled.
Leading with values requires constant work, but there are some best practices that we can all benefit from during this time of rapid change:
Trust your established values – I think most organizations’ core purpose still remains valid despite the dramatic impact of COVID-19. One’s products, services, and perhaps even customer behavior may have shifted. But striving to inspire humanity, to accelerate sustainable energy, or to make the world a better place is just as vital as ever, and should be reaffirmed all the more now during this time of uncertainty.
Be explicit in your values – Many businesses have a mission, but organizational values and ethics are often more granular, particularly when it comes to specific commercial policies. Wherever they apply, it is essential that organizations are explicit in their values and make them widely available, so that those principles are understood completely by one’s entire workforce.
Be adaptive in implementation – Building on a strong corporate culture with clear values, we must also be ready to apply these principles to new, unforeseen situations. One study in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, for example, found that organizations that were strategically aligned, strong, and had built in the capacity to adapt quickly to dynamic environments earned 15% more in annual revenue compared to those in the same industry that were less adaptable.
By being true to our values, and upholding the ethics that have made the Gulf a great place to do business, we can all help ensure that this ‘new normal’ is one we can all be proud of.