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Sat 18 Nov 2006 04:00 AM

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Industry must address ethics

The construction industry is the worst offender when it comes to ignoring basic business ethics. Now there’s a sentence you can read without blinking.

It is one of the findings from a study conducted by the Dubai Ethics Resource Centre (DERC).

And it suggests your average Joe Builder is about as trustworthy as a socially irresponsible fox in a corporate hen house.

That may not be a revelation for most of us with experience of how the industry operates globally, not to mention regionally.

We are used to playing the role of whipping boys in surveys such as this one.

And the accusation from the DERC people that the construction industry does not give good corporate social responsibility is about as shocking as the news that penguins don’t mind the cold.

Specifically, the DERC accuses contractors of lacklustre performance in the areas of human rights, health and safety, the environment and financial transparency.

While it may be hard to argue that the construction industry excels in any of these areas, it is nonetheless simplistic to make the construction industry pick up the tab for the ethical profligacy of the wider property and development sectors.

It could even be a bit of a cheap shot. The commercial realities facing most construction companies and the work that they do, means that they are more exposed to criticism of this nature than their peers in other industries.

After all, the success of a stationery distributor in achieving a million man hours without a lost time paper cut is hardly as significant as a high-rise contractor doing the same thing but with falls from height. Contractors are also more exposed in the areas of human rights and the environment. As for financial ‘transparency’, it is hard to accuse construction companies of being any more opaque than other sectors.

Surveys such this one are valuable in highlighting where the construction industry needs to improve in terms of corporate social responsibility.

But let’s follow the money and look at what developers need to do as well in order to get their house in order.

“It suggests your average Joe Builder is about as trustworthy as a socially irresponsible fox in a corporate hen house.”