Your Ethics or Mine?

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

I’ve seen a lot of Requests for Proposal (RFPs) in my career, and most contain a statement requiring a vendor to agree to the client’s behavioral standards. That is, the client organization requires the vendor organization to agree to meet a certain standard of behavior when doing the work. That will cover everything from treatment of individuals to security of property and everything in between.

This is a sensible protection, and is something I always encourage clients to include in their RFP documents--but there are two problems with it. Firstly, it doesn’t consider situations where the vendor has a higher ethical standard than the client; and secondly, it is a clause that buyer and seller generally just pay lip service to. Both of those are problems, and that’s what I want to consider here--not just in an RFP situation, but whenever two organizations have to work together.

Not all clients are created ethically equal
If you ask most major companies, they will tell you that they will turn down business from clients whose ethical standards don’t meet their own. I am sure many companies mean it as a corporate policy as well, and in some cases they legally have to (consider banks and money laundering, for example).

However, if you dig more deeply into those organizations, you will find many situations where the sales person and/or the …

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