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Post UBS, is a culture audit such a bad idea?

Yes, it sounds like lunacy. Or at least, hippie nonsense. But it’s not. A culture audit MAY be just what you need.

Given the importance of culture in embedding sustainability, working out what yours looks like makes a lot of sense.

UBS appears not to have had any, which may be more the problem than one might initially think.

A strong culture, even if massively left or right wing, still has some values.

A culture-less organisation can be almost nihilistic. That’s a recipe for disaster.

BP has had culture issues going back to former CEO John Browne’s acquisitions of Amoco and Arco.

They used to say that Natwest Bank only had a culture of complaining there was no culture, just before it was eaten by the now-disastrous RBS some years ago.

And now this thoughtful piece in the superb New York Times suggests UBS may have suffered the same problem.

ExxonMobil, for all its critics, spills less oil and suffers fewer worker fatalities than comparable super-major oil companies.

Does culture play a role? Very possibly yes.

Looked at pretty much any which way, a culture audit (or whatever you want to call it) increasingly looks like a good idea.

(And we shouldn’t expect employee surveys or meetings where the CEO does a ten minute Q&A with employees to count as that, it goes a lot deeper, and so should the research)

2 Comments

  1. Deap Khambay

    have always agreed that culture is at the core of sustainability issues, I think a mindset needs to shift thats much easier said than done, however all the reporting on social KPI's takes away the human emotive element, I believe what it really boils down to is that human rights needs to be intergrated in business strategy because KPI's can be a misleading representation of an organisation, I would not be surprised that the further down the supply chain you drill into the less aware people are of their own personal rights.

  2. This is a very interesting idea, especially for those of us in the sustainability reporting business. We know that the culture outside the office doors plays a role, but what about inside? Yet, recent criticism of Apple, where I would expect a very liberal, modern, eco-smart culture to reside, has been criticized for their lack of good reporting. Anyway, we are going to give this a good think!

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