Moral compass

24 August 2023, Ralph van Roessel

“Is our sector sufficiently aware of the moral dilemmas in our line of work?” That is a particularly relevant question in my view, given the recent flood of public outrage at individual companies and indeed at entire industries over alleged morally reprehensible conduct. Whether that is because of doing business with Russia, trading in the production of the nitrogen issue or generating astronomical profits - there are plenty of examples of conduct no longer accepted by the general public.

As an outsider, my first thoughts were: “Well, you could have seen that one coming, couldn’t you?” But now I wonder about the moral blind spots we ourselves might have in our sector. Should we still submit tenders for new-build housing projects in the low-lying parts of the Netherlands? Can we still justify not using sustainable alternatives, only because the contracting party failed to request them? And isn’t becoming questionable to work for clients who put shareholder value above their environmental impact?

I am convinced that every single company should ask itself those kind of questions. If your own mission and values do not prompt you to do so, you will, at some point, be forced to, either by public opinion or by critical questions from your own employees. To pre-empt that, TAUW Netherlands developed a ‘moral compass’: not intended as a checklist to tick off all the moral dilemmas we run up against in our work – moral dilemmas are rarely so clear-cut – but rather as a practical process tool by which to encourage discussion from different perspectives in the organisation. It helps to bring different views to the table and clarify the line of reasoning for the final decision.

Is the moral compass a guarantee that we are ‘sound’ and that we never make ethical slip-ups? Probably not. But it is a practical resource that will help us continue to align our actions with our mission and values, now and in the future. The fact that it helps to prevent reputational damage and is valued by mainly the younger generation is a nice added touch.

Ralph van Roessel, Co-CEO TAUW Group


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