Beyond Business Ethics - Embrace Wisdom for a Sustainable Future

Business as a commercial activity is supposed to deliver value to all its stakeholders. The distribution of the gains is uneven, but at its' core and beginning, business was never intended to exploit or inconvenience anyone or anything. However, over the centuries, greed overtook moral or religious values to unleash a long history of exploitation. Marxism very strongly advocates that it is the exploitation of the labour, that results in profit generation for the capitalist (1). It may sound like being too extreme an opinion to some; nevertheless, the more exploitation there can be, the more profit will be generated, that is for sure. Exploitation extends beyond labor, to natural resources, environment, and endangers the very sustainability of the human race and the earth. The only intention behind all this abuse is the possibility of more monetary gains. The greed of a few, leading to the destruction of all. What was supposed to lead to development and happiness unfortunately led to degradation and unsustainability. The rate at which the non-renewable resources were consumed resulted in toxic climatic changes and extinction of flora and fauna. It drew the attention of environmentalists, along with sociologists and social activists (2).

Business Ethics has a recent history and a difficult start, “some observers dismissing it as a fad that would pass” (1). Much earlier, “Plato spoke about justice in the Republic, and Aristotle explicitly discussed economic relations, commerce and trade under the heading of the household in his Politics” (1).

But it was the U. S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 that laid the foundation for the eventual development of Business Ethics. It was essentially an anti-discriminatory regulation against race, color, language, and else. In 1970 this was followed by The U. S. Occupational Safety and Health Act to address the health hazards and safety at the workplace. It was in the same year that the Environmental Protection Act was also promulgated to control the pollution and abuse of environments. The Lockheed bribery case, which created upheaval in the Japanese political circles, precipitated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977. However, despite the fact that Business Ethics is now a study subject in business schools and many organizations have codes of ethical conduct, the planet’s resources keep being plundered and inequality is more than ever plaguing worldwide (1).

Blatant disregard of ethics and moral values continue, albeit at a much higher magnitude. Libor (Systemic financial corruption), Goldman (cheating of their clients), Penn State (child abuse), Madoff (Ponzi scheme), Countrywide (illegal loans and foreclosures), WellFargo (Foreclosure crisis), Barclays (Manipulated Fed rates) are some significant scandals that were uncovered, undoubtedly indicating the failure of ‘business ethics’ to deliver to one's expectations (3). If greater organizations with so many resources at their disposal can not prevent such crisis, little can be expected from medium and small-scale enterprises, who are under constant pressure to cut corners.

The Facebook, Cambridge Analytica nexus (50 million Facebook user data compromised), Ferrero USA (3.05 million $ paid as settlement for falsely promoting Nutella as nutritious breakfast spread), Volkswagen (used software to mislead Environment Protection Agency emission tests), Foxconn (vendor of Apple accused of employing child labour), Toshiba (mismanagement of account to inflate profits), there are so many examples where violation of Business Ethics became a norm rather than the exception (4). The trend and examples set by business giants have shredded the sustainability agenda to pieces.

Though conceived and promoted with the best of intentions, “Business Ethics” turned out to be a toothless lion.

Based on his Stanford prison Experiment, Dr. Phil Zimbardo concluded in 1971 that even the most ethical and compassionate individuals, buckle and give up their values, when under severe pressure. Situational pressure leads to ethical fading, says Max Bazerman (1).

We need to go beyond Business Ethics…… and tap into something deeper, something holistic, something which was always there but didn't gather much attention.

Humans equipped with their five senses and their inner thoughts are struggling to execute noble and compassionate ideologies. The five senses are programmed to perform the basic survival function. And human thoughts are just the various contextual combinations of the data collected by these senses; but that in no way means other experiences beyond the capability of the five senses, do not exist (5).

Today, most of us associate with what we identify as "I", or "self-identity". The intellect and the senses protect that identity. In this world where time is limited and we are already working beyond the limits of our bodies and minds to regenerate, this can lead to selfish motives and objectives. A necessary disregard for fellow humans and other creations of the world and of the universe arise to protect our identity and lifestyle. 

Every human has the possibility to recognize the true nature of life. Human intelligence is beyond thought, capable of exploring the whole amplitude of possibilities of the universe. The universe is endless in its physicality and its possibilities. The human being is in constant futile pursuit of realizing and understanding the limits. Boundaries cannot help you explore what is limitless. Human consciousness, with its possibility of infinite expansion based on its connection with the universal consciousness, is the only way a human can and should try to experience the limitless.

The consciousness is not in the brain, but the brain, along with the body, and the whole world is in consciousness. And so are the other entities of the universe. The expansion of this consciousness instills compassion and empathy for everyone and everything in this world. Thus Business Ethics becomes obsolete because selfish thoughts would never occur, and the idea of exploitation would have lost its very existence.

Our forefathers, as native inhabitants of the Earth, had the wisdom to connect with the universal consciousness and engage only in sustainable activities. That explains the minimalistic lifestyle adopted by all original or native inhabitants of every continent of the Earth, to date.

The very idea of ‘me’ being different from others and not a part of the universal continuum, lays the road for disaster and degradation. The process has now taken a full circle to realize the fundamental discrepancy. It is high time we tap into the ancient wisdom to become a part of the universal entity and not rely on quick-fix solutions. The philosophy and the process of rooting into this boundless repository of ancient wisdom are still available to us and is carried by so-called "wisdom keepers".

Some of the wisdom carriers who understand contemporary and modern thinking along with its challenges can help us find our path to reach this seemingly unrealistic destination.

Everything in nature lives symbiotically; everything lives in connection and in peace. Everything in nature gives and takes only that much what is needed, for bare survival. Greed and insecurity are unknown. Even the lion kills only if hungry. The original inhabitants of this earth lived in harmony with nature and other creatures of the world, without destroying them. Humans are a part of the universal ecosystem and cannot thrive independently of it. The lost forest, polluted water bodies, unhealthy air, and food, along with discriminatory and polarized ideas are a grave threat to the continuance of the human race.

Our oldest ancestors respected the idea of sustainability and employed the wisdom gained out of collective consciousness to progress and evolve, not materialistically, but holistically. They revered the community, trees, rivers, mountains, air, sun, and other celestial bodies and established a relationship with every one of them. That ancient wisdom flowed down through generations to facilitate healthy co-existence.

However, substantial digression intercepted the smooth flow of life, and we drifted away from the continuum of consciousness. Humans unrealistically subscribed to the idea of being self-sufficient with their limited senses and brain and walked down the path of selfish living leading to the current impasse. In an isolated cocoon, humans are bound to be driven by greed and insecurity with total disregard for everything around it.

We have to return to our original state of being, with the help of the Wisdom carriers, we can to reintegrate ourselves with the universe. It will help develop compassion, empathy, and concern for everyone and everything in the universe. Loneliness breeds insecurity. Once again being an active part of the universe will foster the feeling of ‘giving’ rather than ‘taking’. And once that happens, the idea of Business Ethics will fade into oblivion for good.

Athena Wisdom Institute AG, founded by Simone Junod (Senior Executive, Business coach, and carrier of ancient wisdom), is successful in the development and execution of consciousness-based Leadership programs. The ancient wisdom and modern ideologies are integrated to create these programs meant for community, social, and business leaders. Simone Junod with her first-hand experience of interacting with the universal consciousness addresses individual and community issues. Furthermore, she takes it as her responsibility to guide the change leaders to find ways to expand their consciousness and align with ancient wisdom to find sustainable and far-reaching solutions for the future human race.