CEO Memo: Looking ahead in the International Year of Peace and Trust

With a fresh new year upon us, what better time than now to consider what may be the key ethical challenges for your organisation in 2021, the UN-declared International Year of Peace and Trust.

Governance Institute is able to offer some valuable insights into what the nation thinks these challenges are, thanks to our annual Ethics Index.

The latest edition of the Ethics Index found that Australians expect the top three ethical challenges of 2021 to be:

  1. Balancing freedom of movement and individual liberties with ongoing efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19
  2. Increased local manufacturing to reduce our reliance on overseas supply chains
  3. Major reform and overhaul of the aged care sector.
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These concerns strongly reflect issues at the macro-level. They provide organisations with an opportunity to ‘zoom out’ from the day-to-day operational detail and interrogate broader trends from a risk and resilience perspective.

For example, as we continue to navigate the upheaval of changes in work locations, social distancing, and mask wearing, we must remain vigilant within our organisations to get the balance right between liberty and safety of our teams — it is considered the most important ethical challenge by the community.

The overwhelming priority given to this issue should reinforce the need for agility, responsiveness and flexibility when it comes to return-to-office policies and planning.

But what about the second highest rated challenge: ‘Increased local manufacturing to reduce our reliance on overseas supply chains’?

They provide organisations with an opportunity to ‘zoom out’ from the day-to-day operational detail and interrogate broader trends from a risk and resilience perspective.

This may prompt questions of your production, distribution and supply channels. When was your last review of supply chains and suppliers? Has your organisation got contingencies in place for potential deterioration in the relationships between Australia and major trading partners?

The third challenge may be specific to the aged care sector (and we have resources for any current or potential director of an aged care board available here), but it goes to the heart of compliance. It’s a cue for organisations to review operations against industry and national standards, from a risk and compliance perspective, if this is overdue.

Closely ranked together were the next three highest perceived ethical challenges for 2021, which were:

  1. Ensuring climate change and environmental issues continue to receive attention and action
  2. Balancing the need for bushfire hazard reduction with conservation of native species and plant and animal communities
  3. Greater scrutiny, transparency and oversight of board and executive remuneration, ensuring economic conditions of the day are accounted for and reflective in senior pay rates.

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