Panel urges honest practices

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 May, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 May, 1994, 12:00am

A BELIEF that companies should pursue profit above all else has been attacked by the organisers of today's Conference on Business Ethics.

The organising committee said: ''The extremist view of economists, such as Milton Friedman's in the 1970s that the only concern of businesses is profit-making . . . is being challenged more and more severely by the school of thought that businesses should go beyond the pursuit of profit.

''The concept of a 'corporate citizen' is gaining more and more popularity. The link between businesses and society is closer than ever,'' the committee said in its statement.

The committee believes business ethics is an expansive subject which can stretch beyond merely keeping to issues related to social responsibilities.

To cover the various issues related to business ethics, the committee said: ''For the Hong Kong business community, the first move is to encourage the formulation of corporate codes of conduct.

''A code of conduct sets the standard expected of a company's employees.

''It safeguards against corruption and malpractices, the absence of which is essential to a high level of efficiency in business operations.'' The committee said corruption must also be tackled, because it sheltered crime and was a problem of international concern.

The committee said: ''In 1993, Hong Kong witnessed a drastic increase in corruption reports.'' The number of corruption reports rose 44 per cent to 3,284 last year. Of these, half were complaints related to the private sector, which suffered a rise of 57 per cent.

The committee said: ''There is a clear indication that the 'fast buck' syndrome exists in certain sectors of the community.'' Noting there was public concern over corruption, the committee said the increase in border activities had brought more problems.

The maintenance of Hong Kong's minimal government and strong free market economy was only possible because ''our business sector is prompt with self-regulatory measures whenever the need arises'', the committee said.

There was also the need for companies to comply with international standards, such as ISO 9000, it said.

''Business ethics can be translated into a real and valuable asset; it is fundamental to survival,'' it said.

''The loyalty that it incurs in customers, suppliers, even employees, is essential to survival. At the bottom of it all is again the question of trust and confidence. With trust and confidence comes loyalty.

''Efficiency of operation is also enhanced, because less needs to be said and more can be done.''