Values seem to have slipped down on the ladder of priorities!

Values seem to have slipped down on the ladder of priorities!

 

Fadi Saab is a financial advisor and serial investor who is President of the newly formed “Ethical Governance, Quality Leaders & Standards of Excellence Committee” at the World Business Angel Investment Forum, WBAF. Fadi has a long track record promoting ethics in global business. He talked to Dieter Brockmeyer, Director Innovation & TIME of the Diplomatic World Institute, about the role of ethics in times of global change and more so during the crises caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

 

What is the purpose of this group within WBAF you are heading?

We are still in the early stage of committee activities but have already proposed a Code of Ethics that was approved by the WBAF General Assembly in February. We are also reaching out to all our ecosystem to discuss the importance of business ethics in general, and specifically during the Covid-19 outbreak where people sometimes forget their moral obligations towards society and instead focus more on quick financial rewards. Lately we submitted an open letter to governments requesting that they act ethically by putting health concerns above business pressures to swiftly open markets, and to give priority to the well-being of their citizens before removing restrictions mobility and economic activity.

Our first action steps are to focus on the basic principles of business ethics such as anti-corruption, transparency, accountability, corporate governance, and the importance of providing quality goods or services especially in today’s highly competitive markets. I personally like to use the term “value of Values” as a main foundation for decisions in relation to business dealings or corporate investments. Ethical values are a prerequisite for conducting business transactions or deciding on partnerships, investments, or acquisitions and they are more valuable than any expected financial returns.

In my opinion these intangible “Values” have an enormous impact with tangible positive results especially as business relationships develop over time because people usually partake in economic activities that grow beyond the short term effect at the point of acquisition into medium or even long-term expectations. During the preparations of acquisitions or partnerships one should look deep into these valuable “Values” and go back to the basic criteria of important due diligence on fundamentals rather than on reward expectation hype. This is becoming more important considering the new trend with start-ups, founders and entrepreneurs taking actions based mainly on great ideas but sometimes not properly focusing on the overall requirements to successfully develop a sustainable business.

 

Do they listen, especially in this pandemic time where start-ups are much more at risk than “established” businesses. They seem to have other worries. Is this not a difficult moment to confront them with ethics?

I think that not only they are now listening, but also many have already taken concrete implementation steps. Demand for financial investors, for strategic partnerships, for qualified talent, for operational scaling and for many other elements of the important key success factors is very high within the start-up community. On the other hand, the supply of these essential fundamentals is becoming more and more limited while the number of qualified alternative options are growing. Investors can easily shop around for a good valuation deal, but they are equally evaluating the supplementary dimension of appraising the culture of ethics on the same decision-making priority level as financial transaction terms.

This situation is creating a window of opportunity for our committee to effectively promote the proposed code of ethics as a prerequisite to any investment or partnership activity since business success is not only dependent on a good vision, a good business plan, or a rewarding market potential. Actually, good corporate governance and well applied ethical standards will enable target startups or SMEs to differentiate themselves from other players when dealing with potential investors or bankers and other stakeholders. In my opinion these so called intangible values have a very tangible effect in that they are the key factor to getting qualified are a potential investment target and will enable entrepreneurs and companies to differentiate themselves from the other masses by getting a higher score in their favor when transaction options are being evaluated.

 

You already introduced an action plan to combat potential fraudulent behavior. Who do you address with it?

I am passionate about this topic and in addition to my professional investment advisory activities, I am involved with many business associations and professional NGOs such as Chairman of the anti-corruption committee at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC-Lebanon),  President of Integrity Values and Business Ethics Commissionat the Association of the Mediterranean Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASCAME), Chairman of the Better Business Group at the American Lebanese Chamber of Commerce, Founding Chairman of the Institute of Directors (IOD -Lebanon), and several others active in promoting Anti-corruption and Quality principles. .

I believe that all players within the business community at large need to focus on progressing within the common grounds of an ethical environment in order to positively flourish and develop. At WBAF we are experiencing an exponential growth in the number of the membership base and their international coverage of countries around the world. That is why it is important to actively promote these ethical values not only within the WBAF community but also through the prominent members to all ecosystem players within their national communities thus creating a growing ripple effect on a global level. One might say that we are very ambitious but every vision starts with small steps and given WBAF’s productive structure, we are certain that this activity will build a huge momentum as these valuable concepts are actively promoted to the benefit of all concerned.

 

So, ethics will conquer their position back in our economies?

I like the way you approach things, asking if this is the right time to start an initiative like this one. This question is very important, and the answer is simply YES! All initiatives that have a positive effect on the ecosystem in which they operate are good. This initiative adds to the premise I just mentioned since it is one of the first things on which people unanimously agree. In some cases, while the general theory and title definitions are clear, however the related implementation and operational details remain a bit vague. Our objective is not only to shed the light on these matters but also to provide practical toolkits in support of an efficient successful application. This journey is long but I believe that we have already won the first battle in spreading awareness and efforts should now be more focused on supporting the return to old school fundamentals via an effective plan based on specialized education, mentorship training, relevant documentation, and other practical requirements to assist people in evaluating not only which business they seek but also in in which societies they want to live.

 

That is what many are doing in this lock down caused by the pandemic. Thanks, Fadi, for sharing your vision with Diplomatic World.

 

 

WBAF Code of Conduct 

 

The WBAF Chairman, Board Members, International Committee Members, High Commissioners, Senators, International Partners, Country Office Executives, the WBAF Business School Department Heads and Faculty Members, and Investors of the WBAF Angel Investment Fund are committed to upholding

ETHICAL GOVERNANCE, QUALITY LEADERSHIP AND STANDARDS OF EXCELLENCE

WBAF adopted a shared platform of honorable personal behaviors, business practices, leadership qualities, and e􏰀celle􏰁ce 􏰂􏰃a􏰁da􏰄d􏰂 􏰃ha􏰃 a􏰄e 􏰁ece􏰂􏰂a􏰄􏰅 􏰃􏰆 􏰂􏰇􏰄􏰈i􏰈e a􏰁d g􏰄􏰆􏰉 i􏰁 􏰃􏰆da􏰅􏰊􏰂 c􏰆m􏰋e􏰃i􏰃i􏰈e gl􏰆bal ec􏰆􏰁􏰆mie􏰂:

1.  Ethical Standards: We commit throughout our business dealings to comply with an established written code promoting the highest ethical and professional conduct in accordance with exceptional legal standards and moral principles

2.  Equal Employment Opportunity: We will treat all employees equally and will not discriminate or tolerate abuse or harassment based on sex, origin, religion, political affiliation, or other attributes. We will value skills, education, dedication & merit, which are to be considered the basis for employee advancement

3.  Fair Practices: We will apply fair personal and business practices in all dealings internally with employees, associates, and shareholders as well as externally with customers, suppliers, and the general public aimed at creating mutual win-win outcomes

4.  Leadership Skills: We endeavor to lead by example, inspire businesses, and influence the behavior of 􏰆􏰃he􏰄 􏰋e􏰆􏰋le 􏰃􏰆􏰉a􏰄d g􏰄􏰆􏰇􏰋 g􏰆al􏰂 a􏰁d 􏰃he 􏰋􏰇blic􏰊􏰂 i􏰁􏰃e􏰄e􏰂􏰃. We 􏰋􏰄􏰆mi􏰂e 􏰃􏰆 de􏰈el􏰆􏰋 a􏰁d e􏰁ha􏰁ce leade􏰄􏰂hi􏰋 skills among employees and colleagues by empowering them and promoting team spirit

5.  Sustainable Growth: We encourage stakeholders to act responsibly within the borderless arena of globalization, and contribute towards sustainable economic and social development

6.  Corporate Social Responsibility: We aim to impact positively our society through core business ac􏰃i􏰈i􏰃ie􏰂, 􏰋hila􏰁􏰃h􏰄􏰆􏰋􏰅, a􏰁d 􏰈􏰆l􏰇􏰁􏰃ee􏰄i􏰂m f􏰆􏰄 􏰃he ge􏰁e􏰄al 􏰋􏰇blic􏰊􏰂 􏰂􏰆ci􏰆-economic good. We commit to safeguarding the environment and encourage everyone to contribute and engage in the work of civil society for the promotion of human rights, peace, and justice

7.  Corporate Governance: We undertake to enhance corporate governance procedures towards all stakeholders and to report results with accuracy and transparency maintaining full compliance with laws and regulations. We commit to reciprocate the trust of the investors and shareholders with transparency, accurate disclosure, honesty & good faith. We endeavor to respond equally to majority and minority interest and to actively avoid conflicting interests

8.  Accountability and Transparency: We commit to enable internal controls that allow for proper exchange of information, effective internal auditing processes, and reliable external audits to provide comprehensive financial reporting and necessary disclosure

9.  Antitrust Adherence: We will seek competitive advantage through lawful means, without stifling the free market or influencing competition to create a dominant or monopoly position

10. Quality Standards and Consumer Protection: We shall act in good faith to protect the interest of consumers and promote high quality standards when providing goods and services

11. Intellectual Property Rights: We endeavor to respect and comply with intellectual property laws and regulations throughout our business dealings. We undertake to raise awareness regarding Intellectual Property Rights among employees and colleagues

12. Lobbying and Advocacy: We encourage companies and individuals to participate in lobbying & advocacy that promote Better Business Values for the benefit of society at large.

 

Baybars Altuntas
Executive Chairman,WBAF Board of Directors

Dr Paul Doany
Rector, WBAF Business School

HRH Princess Dr Nisreen El-Hashemite
President, Global STI Committee

Fadi Saab
President, WBAF Ethical Governance, Quality Leadership & Excellence Standards Committee

Prof Inderjit Singh
President, Global Startup Committee

Swati Mandela
President, Global Woman Leaders Committee

 

World Business Angels Investment Forum
Affiliated partner of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI)

 

Fadi Saab President, WBAF Ethical Governance, Quality Leadership & Excellence Standards Committee