The Ethical Harmony Map: implementing the framework

5 min read
May 17, 2024 2:14:19 PM

Making well-informed decisions requires a thorough understanding of the context, including business objectives, issues to be addressed, and available options. This process begins with a collaborative effort to articulate the problem or opportunity, ensuring input from various departments and external stakeholders. This comprehensive and inclusive approach allows for diverse perspectives, enhancing the decision-making process.

One essential tool in this process is the Ethical Harmony Map. This tool involves assessing stakeholder rights, duties, motivations, and impacts through various ethical lenses. By considering both immediate and long-term consequences, organisations can ensure their decisions align with core ethical values and uphold a commitment to ethical conduct. This article will guide you through the steps of completing an Ethical Harmony Map, including key questions to ask for principles like fairness, autonomy, honesty, welfare, efficiency, and motivation.

This is the third of a series of 3 articles exploring corporate governance and ethics. The first article ‘The ethical harmony map: linking corporate governance with ethics’ explores the imperative of having an ethical boardroom, and the second article ‘The ethical harmony map: understanding stakeholders and principles’ outlines the steps to take to adopt the framework in your organisation. 

Implementing the Ethical Harmony Map

This first step is to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the context surrounding the decision, which encompasses the business objectives, the issues to be addressed and the assortment of available options. This involves a detailed articulation of the problem or opportunity that the decision seeks to address. It is imperative that the identification of the decision is not an insular activity but rather a collaborative effort. Such collaboration should extend across various departments within the organisation and, where relevant, should also encompass input from external stakeholders. The aim here is to ensure that the decision is framed in a manner that is both comprehensive and inclusive, taking into account the multitude of perspectives and insights that these diverse groups can offer. It includes outlining the objectives that the decision aims to achieve, as well as identifying the constraints and assumptions that underlie the decision-making process. 

Completing an Ethical Harmony Map involves the undertaking of a stakeholder rights, duties, motivations and impact assessment through each of the ethical principle’s lenses. This assessment is vital for understanding the multifaceted ways in which a decision might affect or take into consideration various groups of stakeholders. The assessment needs to be exhaustive, taking into account not just the direct impacts and considerations of the decision but also the indirect ramifications that may emerge over time. This mapping must consider both the immediate effects and considerations of the decision and its long-term consequences, including both positive and negative outcomes and considerations. Such a comprehensive approach ensures that the decision-making process is both informed and sensitive to the wider implications of the decision. The aim here is to ensure that the decision aligns with the core ethical values of the organisation and upholds its commitment to ethical conduct. 
For each ethical principle, ask targeted questions that relate to the decision, its impacts and its considerations.

Some example questions (this is not an exhaustive list and may not be specific to your particular decision) that could be asked include:


Does the decision allocate benefits and burdens among our stakeholders in a fair and impartial manner? 
Have we considered the needs of minority or vulnerable groups, and does the decision reflect an equitable consideration of their interests? 
Is there a mechanism in place to address grievances or adverse impacts arising from this decision? 
Will the stakeholders affected by this decision have been given a fair opportunity to express their views and concerns? 


Does this decision respect the autonomy of all stakeholders, allowing them the freedom to make their own choices?
Will our stakeholders be provided with sufficient information to make informed choices if this decision is made?
Will implementing this decision involve any form of coercion or undue influence on our stakeholders?
If this decision is made, are there adequate options available for our stakeholders to opt-out or express dissent? 
How does this decision impact the agency of our stakeholders to control their personal or organisational destiny? 


Will we be fully transparent with all stakeholders about the impacts once we make this decision? 
If we implement this decision, will it involve any form of deceit, misinformation, or withholding of critical information from our stakeholders? 
Will this decision ensure that our stakeholders are provided with accurate and truthful information? 
Will all representations and promises made to our stakeholders on implementing this decision be truthful and will these be upheld?


How does this decision impact the physical, mental and financial wellbeing of our stakeholders? 
Does this decision contribute to the long-term sustainability and welfare of the community and environment? 
Are there potential adverse effects associated with this decision, and if so, how will these be mitigated? 
Does the decision support the creation of a healthy, safe and supportive environment for all stakeholders? 
How does this decision align with the organisation’s commitment to social responsibility and community welfare? 


Does this decision represent the most effective use of resources to achieve our desired outcomes? 
Have we considered alternative approaches that might achieve similar outcomes with fewer resources or in a more sustainable manner? 
Does the decision support long-term efficiency and sustainability, beyond immediate gains? 
How does this decision impact our operational efficiency and the ability to meet our strategic objectives? 
Are there mechanisms in place to monitor, review and improve the efficiency of this decision over time? 


What are the primary motivations driving this decision? Are they aligned with our ethical principles and values?
Does this decision seek to benefit a select few at the expense of others? 
How does this decision reflect our commitment to acting in the best interests of our stakeholders?
Are there any conflicting interests or motivations that need to be disclosed or addressed in making this decision? 
How will this decision be perceived by our stakeholders and the public in terms of our motivation and intention? 
In the complex landscape of decision-making, the application of ethical principles does not always lead to clear-cut paths. It often requires the prioritisation of certain ethical principles over others, or the seeking of a middle ground that aims to harmonise the conflicting ethical considerations at play. 

Completing an Ethical Harmony Map serves a triple purpose. Firstly, it ensures all stakeholders and ethical principles are considered and analysed in coming to a decision. Secondly, it acts as a record of the considerations and deliberations that have shaped the decision-making process, providing a rationale for the decisions made. Thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, it serves as a cornerstone for transparency and accountability. By laying bare the process and its underlying considerations, the documentation ensures that the decision-making process is open to scrutiny, reinforcing the organisation’s commitment to ethical governance and stakeholder engagement.

Download your own Ethical Harmony Map template here.

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