Page 2: What are business ethics?
Business ethics are moral principles that guide the way a business behaves. The same principles that determine an individual”s actions also apply to business.
Acting in an ethical way involves distinguishing between “right” and “wrong” and then making the “right” choice. It is relatively easy to identify unethical business practices. For example, companies should not use child labour. They should not unlawfully use copyrighted materials and processes. They should not engage in bribery.
However, it is not always easy to create similar hard-and-fast definitions of good ethical practice. A company must make a competitive return for its shareholders and treat its employees fairly. A company also has wider responsibilities. It should minimise any harm to the environment and work in ways that do not damage the communities in which it operates. This is known as corporate social responsibility.
Codes of behaviour
The law is the key starting point for any business. Most leading businesses also have their own statement of Business Principles which set out their core values and standards. In Anglo American”s case, this is called “Good Citizenship”.
A business should also follow relevant codes of practice that cover its sector. Many companies have created voluntary codes of practice that regulate practices in their industrial sector. These are often drawn up in consultation with governments, employees, local communities and other stakeholders. Anglo American has played an active part in initiatives such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the United Nations Global Compact and the Global Reporting Initiative.
Anglo American has also contributed to the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. This code sets out principles and practices for ensuring that a company”s need to ensure the security of its employees and operations in volatile countries does not adversely impact upon the local population. Thus the Principles provide guidance on how both private and public security forces assigned to protect a mining operation or an oil and gas facility should be vetted, trained in human rights, monitored and controlled.
Anglo American also aims to ensure that it plays a role in protecting the human rights of its employees and local people in countries in which it operates. The company supports the principles set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
All companies need to make a profit. However, Anglo American recognises that this objective must take account of ethics as shown in its statement on corporate responsibility: “Though providing strong returns for our shareholders remains our prime objective, we do not believe that these can or should be achieved at the expense of social, environmental and moral considerations. Indeed a long-term business such as ours will only thrive if it also takes into account the needs of other stakeholders such as governments, employees, suppliers, communities and customers.”
An important process used by Anglo American is that of stakeholder engagement. This enables it better to understand the perspectives and priorities of external groups that are affected by its activities and to factor them into its decision-making processes. To support this work at a local level, Anglo American has developed a Socio-Economic Assessment Toolbox or SEAT process.
This “toolbox” helps managers to measure the impact of activities on the company and communities. It also helps to improve a mine”s contribution to development through, for example, using its supply chain needs to generate new businesses or to improve the water or electricity infrastructure. They use this toolbox to engage with stakeholders including community representatives.
Sometimes communities have to be resettled, with government sanction, in order for important mineral deposits to be accessed. This can cause controversy and divisions in the communities concerned. International best practice sets out a number of key stages in such a process including the need for structured consultation, fair compensation and the importance of restoring and enhancing the livelihoods of people in their new locations.
Recently Anglo American has had to undertake two such relocations in South Africa at the villages of Ga Pila and Motlhotlo. These were undertaken with the support of the provincial government and local tribal leadership and after consultation with local people lasting for several years leading to agreement with each householder. New villages have been built with better houses and infrastructure and more land for farming. The relocation programme was voluntary. The relocation programme at Motlhotlo is still under way but at Ga Pila 98% of those living in the old village took up the offer to move to the new village.