Alan Joyce: “My priority is to do the right thing by Qantas.”
Qantas extraordinary grounding of its entire fleet on Saturday raises some meaty ethical issues that most commentators attempt to avoid (see Michael West for example). No-one seem to want to be seen talking about ethics. Perhaps it is preferable to talk about interests because that is the “bottom line” of what motivates people to do things, anything else smacks of hypocrisy. But so much of our conversations deal with ethical issues. Newspapers have been polling the public asking if they think Mr. Joyce did the right thing. However, avoiding talking explicitly about the ethics of the matter we are left with very partial arguments that often do not get past self-interested rationalisations and spin. So for fear of hypocrisy we embrace corrosive cynicism.
Example…. Claiming “to do the right thing”, Mr Joyce remains vague about what he means by “Qantas”. It very probably does NOT mean the workers, the pilots, the engineers, the people who handle the luggage and many other services. He most probably means the shareholders, maybe extending to the decision-making circles: upper management and the board. But in the ethical realm, “doing the right thing” must extend to others affected by what the actor does. For this reason, many businesses talk about “stakeholders” not just “stockholders”. Part of stakeholder capitalism is a recognition of the importance of a “social license to operate” that may be withdrawn if the society where the business operates comes to the opinion that the business is damaging that society. The common practice of a stakeholder responsible business is to consult those who are likely to be materially affected by decisions of the business. It seems that ‘Qantas’ did not do that about the grounding of the fleet. And that lack of consultation/warning caused a lot of discomfort, inconvenience, cost and possible harm to thousands of passengers, not only those going to business meetings and holidays but also to funerals and sick relatives or are sick themselves. It is also causing wide-spread social backlash for Qantas itself. One particular stakeholder is extremely angry: the Australian Federal Government; an anger, it seems compounded by Mr Joyce afterwards claiming that he did advise Minister Albanese. (more…)