Chief Moral Philosopher
Good morning. This is working theology.
Last week, Quartz published an article on a topic I’ve been preaching for years: Companies should have at the highest levels a person whose role is simply to ask hard, moral and ethical questions, and then write principled guidelines for the business.
This person should have formal training in philosophy or theology to help guide decision making. They aren’t currently an HR or PR person, and they aren’t coming from the general counsel or audit ranks. These roles help guide what is legal or acceptable; they’re not forward-thinking about what might be moral and ethical now and in the future, and how that affects financial performance.
Quartz suggests this person should be a chief moral philosopher.
As politics, culture, and our working lives intertwine and form deeper, closer connections, businesses will increasingly need this role to sort out what decisions mean for its people and its profits.
Organizations cannot afford to leave this issue alone either. The 2019 Deloitte Millennials Leadership Survey showed that millennials and Gen Z hold businesses accountable for their ethical and environmental values, and will stop doing business with them altogether for misbehavior.
But getting this right is complicated.
Here’s an example of the tension mentioned in the Quartz article.
In 2018, Delta Airlines ended its relationship with the NRA over gun violence and mass shootings. “Cue the applause,” right?
But that applause—at least among Delta’s shareholders—died down a week later when the governor of Georgia announced he was abolishing a fuel tax break the airline previously enjoyed. “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back,” he said in a tweet. The tax break was worth about $40 million.
As Delta learned, having principles isn’t cheap.
Moral decisions always have consequences. For many businesses, the consequences can be life-threatening. However, while many values-based decisions can have negative downstream effects, many can have positive ones too.
We’ll talk about that next time.
Thanks for reading.