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Cass and the IoD City of London hold event on ethical leadership

"Businesses which follow ethical practices do better as unethical behaviour will always be caught out"

So stated Sir David Wootton, Lord Mayor of London 2011/12 and partner at Allen & Overy at a recent event at Cass: Leadership and the power of ethics.

The joint event was organised by Cass and Institute of Directors City of London group.

Sir Wootton was the first of three speakers. He highlighted the loss of trust in numerous institutions over the last few years. From politicians and the expenses scandal, banks and LIBOR rigging and misselling, the BBC and Saville, to the press and phone-hacking, numerous organisations are now discussing how to rebuild their stakeholders' trust.

He went on to list many of the strategies developed in this area by the City of London since the end of the financial crisis.

The next speaker, organisational psychologist and Cass Professor Jo Silvester, controversially argued that we can learn a lot about ethics from politicians.

In 2010, with the new coalition government, 232 of the 650 MPs were new to the job. The Whips office invited Professor Silvester to interview sitting MPs to help the office understand how to best support new MPS, who traditionally don't receive any training.

Professor Silvester's research provided fascinating insights with MPs discussing their initial years as parliamentarians. She noted the surprise with which many discovered that their colleagues were "pathologically insincere".

However, Silvester argued that rather than seeing this kind of politicking as unethical, it is instead a justified approach to the difficult job of politics - making decisions which navigate a landscape of wildly differing opinions on any given subject.

The third speaker of the evening was inventor and entrepreneur Mandy Haberman who shared her experience of being on the receiving end of unethical corporate behaviour.

As the inventor of the first baby/toddler cup which doesn't spill, Haberman first encountered corporate disinterest in her technology - with no one interested in bringing it to market.

Having launched the product herself she then experienced significant negative interest. Several major corporations breached her patents and launched products infringing on her intellectual property. Haberman took these companies to court and won, receiving major damages as well as a moral victory.

Although she has battled unethical behaviour herself, she highlighted the tension between ethical corporate behaviour and good commercial practice, labelling the area "fuzzy".

The event closed with an engaging Q&A session covering subjects from gender issues to the UK Bribery Act.

For more events and discussion on the areas of responsibility, sustainability, ethics and government, get in touch with Cass's Centre for Responsible Enterprise: Ethos.

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