Ethics represent all the principles that guide a company to excellence in the executive world.  All these standards apply in any sector of business e.g. sales or finance and companies inevitably face ethical decisions in their lifespan. One of the major aims in many companies should be to make every employee hold on to these principles simply because; it is more beneficial for a company to maintain ethical morals. But, as moral issues are related to decision-making, how can all decisions be ethical and most of all whose responsibility is it? Therefore this paper focuses on how Debenhams fulfils its obligations to stakeholders in terms of ethical business practice and socially accountable corporate conduct. 

The Debenhams Company

Debenhams is UK based company that deals with the production of clothes for all ages and gender, shoes, jewellery, electrical appliances, furniture and gifts for the masses (Debenhams store online, 2010). It was founded in 1778 and after various changes and assimilations is now known as Debenhams and is under the leadership of Nigel Northridge as chairman and Rob Templeman as chief executive officer.  It has over 24000 employees as of July 2010 and has a net yearly income of about 95.1 million pounds. The company suffered a significant loss in sales in the 1980’s due to the recession but regained stability after increasing profits in the following years.  Debenhams has 153 retail stores across UK and Ireland and has over forty stores operating in major cities around the globe.

Employees at Debenhams are given rights to secure shares in the company

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The profit made is adequate to give employees rights to secure shares as stakeholders. Debenhams is basically decentralised so that power is delegated as low as possible in the ‘food chain’. Since there are hardly any prescribed regulations over employees, the level of ethics is mainly determined by employees themselves. This is because of the fact that the idea of leadership is poor as many have power inside the organisation therefore it is easier said than done to motivate employees or implement rules in the organization. Authority determines decision-making but the organization of Debenhams plays a fundamental role in leadership. Debenhams understands the correct behaviour that it should adopt toward all stakeholders. All is clearly spelled out below and any employee who does not give adequate services is sanctioned.

Drawing example from other companies around UK today, it is obvious that the larger the industry that it exists in, the more it will attend to major clients as compared to smaller clients. This is in fact biased as all clients should in essence all be equal. It is not uncommon for social issues such as wealth and nepotism to hinder the growth of the business and executive industry. The wealthier one is or if they happen to know someone within the company, the more services they receive. This is very unfortunate ad should be completely outlawed. The external business of Debenhams is a major determinant of its success therefore when the business is successful stakeholders are destined to enjoy better services, unlike many other companies. As mentioned by the Chief Executive Officer’s statement from the Corporate Social Responsibility report 2010, Debenhams is set to create over 2000 jobs by opening more stores around the globe.

Major stakeholders as mentioned are all members associated with the organisation

The Debenhams CEO makes critical decisions that affect the day to day running of the company therefore their input is highly regarded. She is responsible for making critical choices which include things like signing major deals or authorising the sale and purchase of company needs. On the other hand, a simple delivery or handy man is equally important in that they correct mishaps and occurrences that may not be able to be fixed by others. Without this stakeholder, it could mean the standstill of a major event that affects the company. It is therefore safe to say that all individuals in a company are equally important.

Debenhams has a number of ethical policies that ensure that all employees and stakeholders are treated with utmost fairness and honesty in all aspects of trade and service delivery, these include; questionnaires on risk management and assessment, internal and external audits, regular discussion forums and retreats and team building activities. All these avenues give all employees channels whereby they can freely, openly and positively air their views. According to annual reports, Debenhams this year is focussed at informing customers and all stakeholders of the progress the company has made. Regular forums and discussion forums are created for employees at all levels in the company to sit and positively air their views, concerns and suggestions. These forums are adequate in that they eliminate animosity and feelings of ill will or unfair treatment amongst stakeholders (Baker, 2010).

Aside from all these points listed and explained above, it is the legal right of the employee, customer or stakeholder to be treated in all fairness regardless of position of seniority. Federal legislations demand that all stakeholders be subject to equal treatment and services lest Debenhams be slapped with a law suit not only regarding labour concerns but also human rights (Crystal, 2003). Any form of discrimination or prejudice whether gender or racial should be treated with utmost importance. Favouritism, nepotism and corruption of any kind are serious offences that are punishable under the law and should be avoided at all costs. It is imperative that all companies including be aware and similarly cautious of all items mentioned above.

Corporate ethics and social responsibility are closely intertwined

Essentially, social responsibility refers to the company’s duty to make the most of its affirmative force on the entire community and it has to lessen its negative impact as well. Ethics is one of the proportions of social responsibility. The company has to act in response to what the community expects regardless of if it is not established as law. Debenhams in particular, have a formidable sense of ethics because today, it is a way to perform in a revolving economy. It is an adequate example of how business ethics could become a line of attack and in turn increase sales Therefore, we could wonder if business ethics is an individual or organizational responsibility. Principles are fundamental as they are the heartbeat of Debenhams success.

However, people tend to divide ethics in business and in personal life although both are closely correlated. Actually, an individual’s principle at Debenhams should be the same as in life. But, people often assume that business is business and personal life is personal life, therefore they do not realize that work ethics affects one’s individual character. When employees are engrossed in their business and as they have different objectives from the organisation including Debenhams, it could end up in management making unethical decisions. Then, business ethics is a personal responsibility. In addition, we all have to understand that in every setting, rules and regulations are created as a referral point for the company and its employees.

Norms are mandatory for every individual and employee, including those in companies such as Debenhams. This means that, inside an organisation, you will find sub-groups that may have unlike opinions of work ethics to those spelled out by the company itself. It is the employee’s responsibility to define what is principled in their outlook of business. Moreover, the corporate traditions observed by Debenhams i.e. the patterns and systems that administrate the corporate conduct of Debenhams and its employee’s values, beliefs and customs plays a vital role in business ethics. Debenhams sets out to rally for corporate ethics as well as pledge its support to conserve the environment (Debenhams jobs, 2010). In fact, this culture has an effect on standard decision making by members of the organisation because the company provides rules for conduct. It is therefore imperative that the employees and staff in general influence each other and give much needed insight into the proper conduct that must be observed by employees. Published reports on Debenhams suggest the company’s commitment to serving the community as well as creating a better environment for people around the globe. With Debenhams tentacles spreading worldwide, it is important that the organisation sets an example not only to the society but also to other companies within the same business.


In conclusion, if we consider the two organisational structures i.e. centralisation and decentralisation specifically drawing examples from Debenhams, organizational ethics would be more an individual responsibility in decentralised companies and a cluster responsibility in centralised companies. All examples drawn and shared from Debenhams, in this paper should be taken into serious account if a company is to successfully create a niche for itself in the executive industry. Lack of Corporate Social ethics in our Companies and globally, is a vice that should be curbed if we are to ascend the business ladders.

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