The head of Switzerland’s largest bank has outlined his vision of how companies can regain public trust, in the context of a growing debate about "business ethics".
Peter Wuffli, group CEO of banking giant UBS, condemned what he called the "almost cyclical abuse of power by business leaders" that led to a series of high-profile corporate collapses in recent years.
However, he told the 35th annual ISC conference at St Gallen University that society now ran the risk of "going too far" and "crushing" business with arbitrary new regulations.
Wuffli said the time had come to "give corporations the chance to earn back the trust of society", and argued that businesses – like individual human beings – "need freedom".
"For a large, global listed corporation, there is simply no alternative to maximising the profit potential relative to relevant competitors."
However, he said this did not mean only "cold-blooded short-term profit maximisers [would be] rewarded by the financial markets".
He said companies could only be successful if they "balanced the interests of various stakeholder groups" – particularly customers and employees.
"Responsible corporate leadership means delivering on a profit-oriented mandate in a way that is fully transparent and in line with its stated values, vision and strategies," he said.
However, he concluded: "It is only individuals who can act responsibly. A company is as ethical as its people – every single one of them." Article in Swiss Info