Developing and implementing a strategic approach to ethics
A Vodafone case study

Page 3: The external environment

Ethics guide companies in reacting to changes in the environment. Managers can use a number of different tools to understand the environment. This understanding is important. It helps managers to make better decisions. SLEPT analysis is one of these tools and which looks at changes in five areas:

Social - trends in society

Legal - legal restrictions and considerations

Economic - the health of the economy, inflation, etc

Political - government policy

Technological - developments in computing, etc.

The following sections provide some examples of each factor, which are relevant to Vodafone.

Social factors

Society is concerned about under 18s being at risk. Parents may have concerns about their children being contacted (using mobile phones) by paedophiles or other adults. Society is also concerned about adult content being available via mobile phones to under 18s. Adult content includes gambling, violent games, erotic material etc. Further issues related to 'social' include the rise of mobile phone theft.

Legal factors

Some laws regulate all businesses e.g. The Sale of Goods Act 1974 stating all products must be fit for the purpose they are intended. A mobile phone must therefore work. Certain laws are created to regulate particular industries. Examples include the ban on using holding a phone while driving introduced in 2003.

Independent industry regulatory body:

OFCOM - the Office of Communications. OFCOM is the independent body for regulating the communication industry - www.ofcom.org.uk.

Vodafone goes beyond government regulation, working with its competitors in self-regulation. However to retain its leading position in the industry Vodafone believes it must exceed both legal regulations and industry self-regulation.

Economic factors

The state of the economy, for example levels of growth can impact companies. Companies' activities also contribute to the overall economy. Companies should remain true to their ethical values. If they do not, customers may question the company's beliefs.

Political factors

Government policy indicates that it wants the mobile phone industry to create self-regulating controls in relation to content. The government also shares public concern about unwanted contact and content.

Technological factors

The mobile phone industry has seen a great deal of technological change and will continue to do so. Mobile phones were originally used for telephone conversations. Text messaging became available and usage has increased dramatically. However, most of the texts were between people who already knew each other and had swapped contact numbers. In other words the users were happy to communicate with each other.

As technology developed, it has become possible to swap information between mobiles and other devices via Bluetooth technology. This can be used inappropriately to send anonymous and unwanted texts. This practice is known as Bluejacking and can be distressing particularly if the recipient is a child or young person.

The advent of 3rd generation (3G) mobile phone technology is bringing with it a richer mix of content and providing more services. This further raises the issue of ethics as Vodafone (and other suppliers) can now offer a wide variety of content to mobile phones with this new technology. Naturally, 3G will help the companies to increase their sales revenues. However, Vodafone recognises that it brings additional responsibility. This includes the need to protect young people from inappropriate contact, including violent games, gambling and erotic material.

Vodafone | Developing and implementing a strategic approach to ethics

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