, Volume 9, Issue 7, pp 551-554

Business ethics in Italy: The state of the art

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Abstract

Up until now, the work which has been done in Italy might be considered of a preparatory nature. In 1985 and in 1986, the association of Catholic businessmen produced two documents on the ethical implications of economic activity. But in those years, the world of big business, had not yet realised how central the argument was becoming.

The first significant signs of interest for business ethics appeared in 1987. In June, 1988, the first Italian National Conference on Business Ethics took place in Milan. The main outcome of that conference has been the constitution of the Italian Chapter of the European Network. In 1988, I founded the first issue of the journal entitled “Etica degli-Affari”. Promotional efforts have developped along two lines. The first regards programs of executive training and, eventually, consulting. In the second place, efforts are being made to elaborate and introduce codes of ethics in Italian corporations. There are, however, some very fundamental difficulties involved in the promotion of Business Ethics in Italy. The first problem is the fact that Italy is a country with a “low ethical temperature”. We don't have a strong sense of national identity, nor do we have a strong sense of the state. The second difficulty has to do with the business environment — the Italian business community itself. As a self-conscious, self-aware nucleus of a sector of society, the Italian business community is a very recent, and rather minoritarian social phenomenon.

I personally feel that a certain protagonism on the part of prominent business leaders who are quite sensitive to the theme of ethics would prove to be very influential and greatly accelerate the process.

Mario Unnia is managing director of Prospecta, a research firm, Milan, Italy. He has lectured and published extensively in the fields of Business and Public Policy, Corporate Culture and Labour Relations. He has founded and is chairman of the Italian Business Ethics Network. He is editor of “Etica degli Affari”.