The past year has put new pressure on organizations to operate ethically. Are financial shortcuts you wouldn’t have considered in a boom economy now on the table? How do you need to adjust your approaches to hiring, volunteering, and retention in the wake of national protests around race?
Such questions will only become increasingly relevant: A 2020 Deloitte survey of millennials and Gen Zers showed that they keep social responsibility top of mind when deciding what organizations they will engage with. Their loyalty to an organization, for instance, increasingly depends on its commitment to matters like diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and sustainability.
MaryAnne Bobrow, CAE, a longtime association consultant on ethics and management, says that COVID-19 has increased ethical challenges for associations that feel the strain of tighter budgets and more anxiety among members and stakeholders. The loss of in-person meetings, for instance, may make vendors more eager to connect with associations in ways that had previously been barred, and economic stress may cause staffers to consider them.
“The pandemic has thrown everyone for a loop,” Bobrow says. “And people like to take shortcuts.”
The past year should prompt association leaders not just to think more seriously about ethics, Bobrow says, but also to make sure that their ethics policy is a living document. “It is up to industry associations to uphold ethical behavior within their industries,” she says. “Ethics policies ought to constantly be updated and revised, because the world is constantly updating and being revised.”