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“Injustice is unsustainable,” Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said at the recent launch of the GIBS Ethics Barometer in Johannesburg. Business should be considered a citizen of South Africa, with rights and responsibilities. “In a nation as challenged as ours, you need government, civil society and the corporate sector working together,” he added.

The Ethics Barometer, compiled by the GIBS Ethics and Governance Think Tank in partnership with Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), draws on a Harvard Business School tool adapted to South Africa’s issues and challenges. Fifteen leading companies from diverse sectors were surveyed to establish this comprehensive benchmark of South African business ethics. 

Nonkululeko Nyembezi, chair of the JSE and BLSA, called ethics “the defining business issue of our time” and said leaders should strive to create corporations who will do the right thing, even when they are not under scrutiny.

Director of the GIBS Ethics and Governance Think Tank, Rabbi Gideon Pogrund, explained the Ethics Barometer is an attempt to shift ethics from the periphery to the centre of corporate decision-making.

The GIBS Ethics Barometer aims to be locally relevant while being aligned with a global framework. It uses quantitative data as well as in-depth qualitative analysis by collating 7,000 comments from respondents to gauge the state of ethics in their organisations.

According to Pogrund, the tool facilitates an opportunity for self-reflection for leaders. “The Barometer’s ambition is to create a longitudinal survey which can assess companies’ progress over time, create a national benchmark and establish clear targets to which corporates can aspire. Our aspiration is that the measurement of ethical performance becomes usual practice amongst South African companies,” he said.

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