The only way is Ethics?

Charles 10 Comments

Screenshot 2013-11-23 at 17

The Co-operative — What Makes Us Different


“I sometimes wonder if the greatest institutional problem of our time is not plain, unvarnished evil, but this obsession with Ethics as an outward form, with compliance rather than conscience. The whole idea of an Ethical business, as distinct from a normal one which behaves ethically, is flawed. Today, business after business, organisation after organisation, babbles about corporate responsibility, transparency, openness, saving the planet etc. Like executive versions of the Pharisees, they proclaim, “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are.” Later, expensively, we discover that they are as other men are, or even a bit worse; and for some reason we are surprised.”

Charles Moore here


  1. Charles

    absolutely, terrific stuff, precise and no doubt spot on

    if this organisation per se, is so wonderfully ethical, yes, a very catchy little word that, isn’t it, why is it, that there is the constant escalation in the costs of their funerals?

    ……….and I have said this on here before

    yes, where is the ethical element here – the issue “of funeral poverty’ as raised by Charles, again recently – higher costs, more new branch openings, larger swankier vehicles, Mr average in the street has no call for this stuff, why penalise him when one is being, oooooh, “so ethical”?



  2. Charles

    It shouldn’t surprise me in the least that the Coop bank is in such a mess.

    Personal experience has taught me that they are the slowest, least “on the ball” bank of all when it comes to dealing with funeral payments.

    Absolute nightmare.

  3. Charles

    An acquaintance of mine, who works for one of those big organisation FD’s who featured negatively on TV, told me this week that they are no longer allowed to use language that has been used in the past around their funeral premises.

    He gave me an example. I have often heard people in the industry use the (inappropriate) term ‘box one up’ to describe the placing of the deceased in a coffin. My pal told me the only acceptable term that can now be used at this large organisation is ‘we need to encoffin the deceased.’ In my view, this is absurd. Whatever way you choose to (respectfully) describe the action, ‘encoffining the deceased’ is definitely bordering on silly.

    Tick box management has messed up the NHS and made a fool of policing – yet still it thrives among certain management types.

  4. Charles

    Encoffining? I would refuse to say it on the grounds that it might cause my larynx to seize and my tongue to tangle. That would surely be a health and safety issue – and we might have to confrontate the bosses (yes I heard that word on telly the other day).

    1. Charles

      Of course one never asks the qualifications of politicians. Is Flowers less well qualified to run a bank than Osborne is to run the economy? Or any Leader of a great local authority to run all sorts of critical services? It seems harsh to condemn the Co-op for electing a non-specialist and trusting to officers to run the business when it is supposed to be a merit in the running of the rest of the country. Or perhaps there are wider lessons here.

  5. Charles

    I think I said in an earlier post about the Co-op that ‘lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds’.
    It’s certainly been evident to readers of this blog that for some time now there has been serious discontinuity between the business’s stated ‘ethical’ aims and its actual treatment of customers and staff. Somehow ethics haven’t stopped ordinary and humane needs of both when managers have wanted to squeeze more money out of the business.
    But, however appealing, I think Moore’s piece is facile in that attractive old conservative way. The sort of huff and puff that decries rules, standards, constitutions in every area on the basis that common sense and decent men would make a better fist of it every time. Let’s remind ourselves that, if the Co-op bank has fallen, it fell later than all those other non-ethical banks and we haven’t had to bail it out either.

    1. Charles

      The main crime is how unqualified executives climbed to responsible positions in a multi-billion pound institution simply by being political networkers. So unmeritocratic and dangerously irresponsible. It’s the ‘union’ equivalent of ‘old school tie’. Sufficiently Labour and you’ve got a board position, Flowers.

      I agree some mutuals/co-ops do excellent work. You don’t need to be downhearted after being let down, Vale. I’m talking as someone who has seen the Church take a justified beating and yet I remained convinced the core was never rotten. Mutuals devotees don’t need to allow illustrations of human frailty to cloud the bigger picture. It’s a mere blip.

      But please employ experts in high positions in future.

  6. Charles

    The Times on Saturday had a cartoon with a Co-Op funeral home with a “No flowers” notice!
    What if Rev Flowers was actually right and the bank only has assets of £3 billion – rather than £47 billion? Perhaps he isn’t such a fool after all…
    The FT reckons the funeral business is the most profitable part of the Co-Op’s enterprises. Their food stores actually lost sales in the most recent quarter (Aldi/Lidl and Waitrose reported as being the main beneficiaries).
    If substantial amounts of cash is needed, it looks like Funeralcare is the obvious place to start.

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