Q: Do ethics play a role in the business events industry? (Part one)

“For every complex problem, there is a simple solution that is wrong,” warned the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. In our industry, we often have to make decisions that put our ethics to the test. Situations large and small challenge us; our actions can be judged as right or wrong, as can our motives.

As business events professionals, we declare our organisational values and pledge to follow the ethical guidelines of the industry associations we belong to. But do we ever think about the importance of these affirmations? Why should we care?

It’s easy to think that the transgressions of a few are insignificant in the larger scheme. But ours is an industry of interrelated stakeholders. Poor judgement and unethical action by a few can have a far-reaching and negative impact on everyone. A look at a recent scandal involving abusive spending at a US government conference is a cautionary tale for us all.

The gathering itself was a legitimate annual employee awards programme. The problem was that it veered way off course with expensive awards and over-the-top parties. Those who should have known better seem to have lost their ethical minds when they authorised the excessive spending.

The fact that this was in connection with a “conference” has now maligned business events and the resulting consequences could jeopardize future ones, both private and public, that are organised and attended by professionals who follow the rules of conduct and make the right decisions.

At the destination level, we are ever attentive to the importance of our “brand”. All stakeholders contribute to make the destination a contender for business events. To maintain a stellar image, it’s vital that we all hold ourselves to the highest professional standards to win business and conventions based on our merits. Would we really want to risk being “branded” otherwise?

Maureen O'Crowley is vice-president of the Seoul Convention Bureau 

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