Business and Professional Ethics Journal

Volume 41, Issue 2, Summer 2022

Elme Vivier, Mollie Painter, Gideon Pogrund, Kerrin Myres
Pages 287-314

What an Ethics Management Program Cannot Sufficiently Address in an African Context
An Ethics Survey’s Results Read through a Levinasian Lens

Ethics management programs have become a popular first step for organizations to manage ethical risks and employee behaviors. However, such programs may fail to foster moral responsiveness or acknowledge broader societal issues. This article contributes to this discussion through an analysis of qualitative data from an ethics survey of fifteen South African companies. Results indicate employees experience persistent unethical behaviors in the form of the disrespect, bullying and discrimination. Reflecting on these results, the article explores the limits of ethical management programs, and whether a compliance approach undermines the transformative ethics that is most needed in organizations struggling with diversity and inclusion. Drawing on Levinas, the article shows that openness to the face of the Other does not lend itself to instrumental orientations, nor to formalized, standardized responses. Instead, moral responsiveness to particular Others is required, and it is this aspect that may be absent from South African ethics initiatives.