Types of Ethical Issues, illustrated by Lewis Hamilton Formula One featuring Abbey Santander UK

Published: 09th March 2010
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The way in which organisations conduct their activities can affect people both individually and/or collectively as a society. Organisations constantly have to consider ethical issues in conducting their activities. But what types of ethical issues do they face? The most important types are illustrated by the UK high profile legal case Chagger v Abbey National & Hopkins (2006), where the way Abbey National and Mr Hopkins conducted themselves caused Mr Chagger to lose his career and led to the creation of important new legal principles and precedents for the UK society to abide by.

Abbey National is the UK high-street bank owned by Banco Santander and featuring Lewis Hamilton (F1 driver for the Formula 1 McLaren Mercedes team) in its marketing and advertising campaign. It was recently re-named as Santander UK. The Santander UK name was unveiled together by Lewis Hamilton and Emilio Botin (the chairman of Banco Santander) in London, during January 2010.

Balbinder Chagger was an employee that Abbey Santander UK dismissed from his job in 2006, claiming the dismissal was the result of a completely fair redundancy exercise. He alleged that the real reason behind his dismissal was race discrimination. He was of Indian origin. He worked for the Lewis Hamilton F1 driver featuring Abbey Santander UK, reporting into Nigel Hopkins.

Some professions (like legal, medical and accounting) have developed formal codes of conduct for their members. These codes of conduct guide the behaviours of the individual practitioners when faced with ethical issues. Failure to abide in accordance with the established codes of conduct can lead to reprimand, for example, a doctor may be 'struck off'. However, business and management professionals seem have greater freedom when faced with ethical issues.

Although the range of ethical issues organisations can face is huge, the four most important categories concern the following: laws and regulations; the truth; respect for others; and causing harm. These categories are illustrated by Emilio Botin's Abbey Santander UK.

Organisations often need to decide whether or not to abide by the governing laws and regulations. For example, the law concerning discrimination was applicable to both Abbey Santander UK and Mr Hopkins. However, the Employment Tribunal found that they both had acted unlawfully; they had unlawfully racially discriminated against Mr Chagger.

Organisations often need to decide whether to tell the truth, or at least how much of the truth to tell. For example, Mr Hopkins was under obligation to tell the truth before the Employment Tribunal. The Employment Tribunal, however, found that some of the explanations and accounts of events that Mr Hopkins gave changed and were inconsistent with or contradicted each other. The Employment Tribunal also found that Santander's response to Mr Chagger's 'Race Relations Act Questionnaire' was evasive, and that Emilio Botin's Abbey Santander UK had failed to answer his questionnaire.

Organisations often need to decide how to treat others. For example, Abbey Santander UK and Mr Hopkins were faced with the issue of how to treat employees. The Employment Tribunal found that both Abbey Santander UK and Mr Hopkins had treated Mr Chagger poorly and disrespectfully; they both had been unfair towards him and had discriminated against him.

Organisations often face dilemmas with regards to causing harm to individuals, society, the environment, and so on. For example, the Employment Tribunal found that Abbey Santander UK and Mr Hopkins had caused Mr Chagger not only to lose his job but also his career. The Employment Tribunal assessed the harm done to Mr Chagger as £2.8 million and ordered the Lewis Hamilton F1 driver featuring Abbey Santander UK to pay him this record-breaking compensation.

These then are the four most important categories of ethical issues organisations face in going about their business that can affect individuals and societies. These four categories encompass a wide range of specific ethical issues, such as employment practices, misleading advertising, miss-selling, product safety, and so on.


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Court of Appeal judgement: Chagger v Emilio Botin Abbey Santander share price and Breaking the Rules, exemplified by Lewis Hamilton F1 driver Abbey Santander UK

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