Integrity in life and business makes for smarter business communities and prosperous cities. Long-term, trusted relationships are the bedrock for success in growing businesses, as are ethical practices embodied in company culture and brand. With the on-going global financial challenges, businesses are under increasing pressure to demonstrate integrity, transparency and a commitment to our communities. For Cape Town to grow into one of Africa’s leading business destination and SMARTest city, building on a foundation of ethics is essential and business role is core to this. This is what we discussed with our guest speaker Prof John Lennox of Oxford University at a recent breakfast hosted by Deloitte.

Chris Whelan raised awareness of the role that business plays when he said: ‘With increased complexity in a globalised world, business, and in particular multi-national corporations, are emerging as one of the most influential social institutions of our times.’ What this does is raise the bar on society’s expectations of responsible business and responsible global leadership. South Africa has its share of corporate ‘statesman’ – people like Bobby Godsell, Mervyn King, Reuel Khoza, Simon Suzman and others. The imperative for business to be and become the moral compass which includes ethical leadership and sustainable, inclusive growth as well as stewardship.

Prof John Lennox continued with an engaging talk on personal and business ethics. Having lectured regularly on Oxford Strategic Leadership Programme at Oxford’s Saïd Business School and presented to business and government leaders in America and Europe, John reminded us of the golden rule of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. He also asked top business leaders to lead by example in order to get their code of ethics into the culture of the organisation and hearts of employees. An example he gave was an employee at Selfridges who was asked to lie for Mr Selfridge. After refusing to do so he said: ‘if I am asked to lie for you, then I can easily lie to you.’

John gave a powerful talk on what drives our moral compass for our personal lives and how we ensure ethical practices within business stemming from top management. John has been in many high profile debates such as Richard Dawkins on ‘The God Delusion’ in the University of Alabama (2007) and on ‘Has Science buried God?’ in the Oxford Museum of Natural History (2008). He has also debated Christopher Hitchens on the New Atheism (Edinburgh Festival, 2008) and the question of ‘Is God Great?’ (Samford University, 2010). To find out more about Prof John Lennox and for further resources, please visit his website.