Fresh thinking on ethics for management consultants from the latest Management Consulting Journal

Written by Ian Wylie Wednesday 10 July 2024
From codes of conduct, to professional independence and personal morals, explore some of the key highlights from Issue 7.2 of the Institute of Consulting’s Management Consulting Journal.
A man next to a pair of scales

Codes of conduct, professional independence and personal morals lie at the heart of the latest issue of the Management Consulting Journal, which features insightful contributions from students on the MSc in Management Consulting programme at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Here’s our run-down of the highlights you need to stay informed.

  1. No laughing matter: Codes of conduct
  2. Resisting “deal-lust”: Professional independence 
  3. Would you speak up?: Balancing personal morals with professional obligations
  4. The strong choice: Developing talent

Read the full edition of the latest Management Consulting Journal, as well as the back-issues, here.

1. No laughing matter

What happens when something goes against a code of conduct? This is what happened when a major Dutch bank received a loan request from a bar owner who wanted to sell laughing gas to a young clientele; a tantalising case study covered in Camilla Ørsted Rytter Hansen’s paper. 

Laughing gas had just been legalised for recreational use in the Netherlands, and the bar owner saw an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. The bar was legally allowed to sell the drug, and the bank’s guiding principles behind its code of conduct required its employees to serve the client and be professional. But the bank representative dealing with the request also had concerns over the transaction, and she shared them with colleagues in the ethics department. 

Those internal advisors explored the case using various ethical perspectives:

  • Consequentialism, which judges what is right or wrong solely by its consequences. For example, while laughing gas is enjoyed by some people, it’s also known to play a role in traffic accidents and can be highly addictive.
  • Deontology, which judges what is right or wrong based on virtues such as principles and values. While taking laughing gas or targeting young people with it might conflict with many people’s inner “moral compass”, the bar owner is free to do what he likes within the law, including making a profit from selling the gas.
  • The perspective of all stakeholders – bank, bar owner, clients, advisors, society as a whole, government as legislator, and the media. 

By acknowledging consequences, deontology and the various stakeholders’ perspectives, the internal advisors were able to supplement the bank’s guiding principles, and decided to reject the bar owner’s request. Hansen also points out the importance of frontline employees who, in the first instance, are prepared to share their concerns with internal advisors.

Ørsted Rytter, C. (2024). Business ethics: how the code of conduct's superficiality can be combatted by supplementing decision-making with internal advisors. Management Consulting Journal, 7(2) 3-4. 

Want to discover three more highlights from the latest issue?


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