In an industry that has suffered the huge losses and dislocations caused by BSE and Foot and Mouth disease, Ruth Laytons remarks may seem to border on the self-evident.
Yet in 1995,when the consultancy was being launched, her belief was the exception rather than the rule. But now, whole industries, and even nation states, have come to realise the very high opportunity-cost of not employing ethics within the decision-making process.
rl consulting realised that practical ethics, then, as now, have a key role in creating, maintaining and sustaining best practise and competitive advantage. Practical ethics are functional,tough, and innovative.
Functional, because there is nothing academic about feeding people, producing effective medicines or funding pensions for an ageing population. Tough, because lines have to be drawn between increasing numbers of vocal stakeholders with different agendas. Innovative, because ethics is a function of changes in knowledge - our burgeoning scientific knowledge and the self-knowledge of human societies.
But often, in ethics, as in life, words are cheap. Enrons manual on corporate ethics was sixty-five pages long.
By contrast, rl consulting has invested hard cash, and considerable time, in researching, defining and developing ethical workable frameworks for a wide variety of clients. Just one example of their efforts has been the launch of the Food Animal Initiative (www.faifarms.co.uk) in collaboration with Oxford University at the Universitys four hundred hectare farm.