Why Ethics in Business Still Count …Muhammad Shahid
You may find it strange that someone needs to reinforce the importance of ethics in business, especially in a post Enron and Arthur Andersen era. After all, the collapse of the two giants in 2001 forced companies around the world to revisit their commitment to best practices and implement firmer controls to ensure transparency and foster an ethical work culture.
So when recently, the CompetitionCommission of Pakistan (CCP) imposed a total penalty of Rs18 million on 18 electric cable makers for deceptive marketing, one is forced to wonder why the business community is not waking up to the responsibilities we owe to all stakeholders including the communities we serve?
The CCP has directed the accused cable manufacturers to clearly print incentive details on the packaging, which buyers are entitled to on purchase of the product. The practice employed by these 18 cable manufacturers did not disclose rewards; hence, the end-consumers often were not aware that the boxes included cash prizes for electricians and other influencers. The cost of the rewards were built into the price and the consumer would pay for the rewards without necessarily benefiting from them.
Offering instant cash rewards / tokens as an incentive to buyers has been a norm for many years in the wire and cable industry, along with other industries such as paints. Cash coupons are offered by numerous brands within the organized and unorganized sector. Consumers end up installing brands that may appear inexpensive but may also pose a graver risk to life and property, as they do not conform to international specifications. It is in the consumers’ interest to be aware of promotions / incentives that are offered by product manufacturers. This ensures that intermediaries are not able to influence the decisions made by end consumers just on account of rewards, while having no regard for the consumers’ safety or wellbeing.
In my view, any business that is established with the intent to serve communities, respects the fundamental notion of freely sharing relevant information with stakeholders. The sooner businesses embrace this reality, the sooner our industries transforms for the better.
According to one estimate, fire incidents kill 16,500 and cost Rs. 400 billion annually. Rescue 1122 reports 124,854 fire incidents between 2004 – 2019 in 37 towns and cities of Punjab alone. This means over 8,300 fire incidents annually in the listed 37 towns and cities of Punjab. A number of reported cases of household fires are owing to short circuits. Faulty wires and outdated electrical systems are often the main culprits. The Regent Plaza fire or more recently the Jamshed road fire in Karachi claimed human lives.
While Pakistan waits for its Fire and Safety Act, the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), prepared a “Building code” to prevent fire hazards in buildings, which was approved by the President of Pakistan, Mr. Mammoon Hussain, in 2017. Enforcement is direly needed. Weak implementation of the fire safety laws and building codes is an opportunity for manufacturers to lead from the front with the consumers’ interest and protection in mind and win not just brand loyals but the respect of industry players.
Another challenge is the large segment of the cottage industry comprising of counterfeiters. Counterfeit cables are those that sell under false pretenses, essentially falsifying that they are compliant with safety and performance standards. Counterfeiters go unchecked and the segment continues to thrive in all major cities of Pakistan, particularly Punjab and KPK belts.
To safeguard consumers’ from counterfeiters and protect their interests, Pakistan Cables® introduced an SMS based Product Verification system that results in giving control to the consumers and allowing them to authenticate products directly.
In its 65 years of pioneering wires and cables in Pakistan, Pakistan Cables® has long served its customers across generations. We have only been able to do so because of our deep-rooted commitment to ethical practices. We do not deter from taking unfavorable commercial decisions if it requires us to violate the internal resolve of conducting business ethically.
Such hard decisions come at a price; however, the reward has been utmost respect and admiration from our business partners and unwavering loyalty from consumers. The two enable us to sustain profitably in the end. We remain a true leader with an intent to serve not deceive, lead from the front and not back down in face of surmounting challenges.