Essay: The Vital Role of Ethics

Faustin Touadera is the recteur (the person in charge of the university and appointed by the president of the country) of the University of Bangui in the Central African Republic. These remarks directed to the faculty closed an ethics conference at the university on June 28, 2007.

This was translated from French by the EC Group in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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This entire day has been devoted to the discussion of ethics. The choice of the University of Bangui to conduct this exchange is not by chance; it is closely related to the new vision of our university. In fact, the University of Bangui, as an institution of learning and research, accords inordinate importance to our quality of education, which must include business and professional ethics. We have started down a path that emphasizes strong leadership and ethics, and this must be carried out in collaboration with other universities.

This represents a controversial subject all over the world. Ethics, or the lack of ethics in the professional circles, has a major impact on tomorrow’s business world. Everywhere on the planet, administrators are in favor of ethics. But as we develop this subject, we must then prepare our students to have another vision of business, because for the most part, young people have an erroneous idea of business. In our country, questions concerning ethics, changes in mindset about business and ethics, and new behaviors are vital. This university must be the central place where this vital transformation takes place for our country.

Is it still possible to build a society more respectful of the dignity of each human being? To understand the devastating effect of not having ethics is one thing, practicing ethics is another thing. We must therefore take concrete steps to prevent this tragedy in the lives of so many mothers and their children.

In the business world — where all kinds of acts are allowed, where corruption is present and manipulation reigns supreme — is it realistic to be honest? Can we respect our personal values while being concerned with the common good and the good of the company? How can we reconcile our needs and those of the business world? Can we be the owner of an ethical company and still remain in business. What is “respect” in sales? How can we as consumers avoid being manipulated?

So many questions. It is legitimate to ask questions because of increasing money and power, which leads us to question the behavior of companies and of certain employees. It is the crisis of ethics.

It is not always easy but it is necessary, and it pays to be honest. Moral values such as not breaking promises, not stealing, not being revengeful, respecting confidences and the freedom of others, not abusing one’s power, avoiding conflicts of interest, not intimidating or cheating, not indulging in abusive marketing, etc., are some of the important elements for establishing a climate of confidence. Ethics in business is the added value, which leads to actions, which permit the increase of productivity and the performance of the company. It is the establishment of a climate of common accord and well being between the people at work. It is transparency and effective communication, which permits each one to respect one’s differences and to act in line with the values and culture of the company. In brief, ethics in business is to be in business with oneself, with one’s colleagues, with our clients and suppliers and with the company that hired us.

This sometimes requires an effort to change behavior and to change the direction of ethics. Ethics begins with oneself, with one’s perception of what is ethics, by our values and morals and with respect to our life, not only in terms of our work but also with regard to the other areas of our life.

In reality, who among us really wishes to be unethical? To be known as an inhumane person without any respect for one’s employees, colleagues and adversaries? Very few. If we wish to succeed in every aspect of our life, we must clearly define our dreams, hopes, values, and beliefs. This is the goal of self realization and realization of the ultimate goal of our life.

As Montaigne said it so well, “The glorious masterpiece of man is to live according to the reason for his existence.” Should we still discover it, that which is fundamentally important to us? What is the meaning that we give our life? Why do we choose to be in the business world? What is our definition of success?

Today you have debated on a theme that poses so many problems in the world and more so in a developing country like ours. From today, you belong to the group of people who have the mission of doing conscientious work in the socio-professional environment, as well as in business. I am sure that you will be messengers in promoting ethics in business.