Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Beliefs? What Beliefs? Consequentialism and Pokies

Roger Corbett, ex CEO of Woolworths and mentor of present Woolworths' CEO Michael Luscombe was asked (in 2006) how he reconciled his Christian beliefs and Woolies' pokie business;
"MOORE: This is a very personal question but it is probably going to be the last chance we get to speak to with you on Business Sunday. You are now the biggest pokies operator, the biggest pub owner, the biggest liquor retailer in Australia, how does that sit with your very well known personal Christian beliefs?

CORBETT: Ali, right across the community lots of people like a drink, I like nice glass of wine myself, like lots of people go to their local hotel and it is their club, it is their social life, lots of people like to use a gaming machine. I think from our point of view we are anxious that the retailing of liquor, and the providing of hotel services to our customers is at the highest level, so we create environments where it is conducive with people enjoying it in the way that I think it is best used. You have got to remember, a person asked me the other day, 'why do you sell cigarettes?'. Well people have a right if they want, they are adults, we cannot be the type of standard setters for society, that is not our role."
The goal of a business is to survive. To survive a business must be profitable. How a business reaches its goal of profitability is up to the leaders of that business. A business can conduct itself with a moral conscience. Or not. They have a choice as to what products or services they wish to make a profit from.

Mr. Corbett, by this statement reveals that Woolworths cares not at all about what the harm Woolies products might do to people. So long as its legal. And it makes a profit.
"... we cannot be the type of standard setters for society, that is not our role"
So, as long as its legal and makes a profit; Woolworths under Mr. Corbett had no problem with the products or services he sold. Like Stalin, for Mr. Corbett, the end (profit and shareholder value) seems to always justifes the means (pokies, smokes, TAB betting, booze). Consequentalism rocked Roger Corbett's world.

Can we look forward to a Safeway chain of brothels with a "conducive" environment? After all, brothels are legal too.

No one forced Woolies into the pokies business.

No one forces you to buy groceries at a Woolworths or a Safeway, household items at a Woolies' Big W, electronic gadgets at a Woolies' Dick Smith or alcho-pops at a Woolies' Dan Murphy's.

We all make choices. Some choices are a reflection of our true personal beliefs. I don't shop at Woolies anymore.
"MOORE: Did you ever consider walking away?

CORBETT: In the broader — it is a very difficult question. But my greatest obligation is to do what I‘m employed to do by the shareholders and that is to do my very best in their interests at all times. And that was the overriding principle here."

1 comment:

daviidv said...

Dear PokieAct

Yes, you have hit the issue dead on. Legal vs ethical. Where does it stop. So long as no law is broken, what difference does it make if any harm is done ! Putting profit before people is a choice each business makes. And choosing not to shop with them is a choice we can each make. Like you, once I found out about Woolworths choice to profit from pokies that cause so much harm to the Australian community (by the way, in total, pokies rob families of $8 billion per year. Woolworths total profit is about 1.6 billion per year .. so doesn't that show how much 200,000 pokies can take from the community) , I chose to not shop with their group of companies. My simple choice switched annual revenue from them to their competitors of more than $10,000 per year (supermarket plus consumer product stores). Perhaps not a lot to them, but if enough customers felt them same, perhaps they would rethink their choice to make profits in this way at the cost of their main business.
Keep up the great work you do.
Richard Wolff
Founder www.makepokiessafe.com
ps the makepokiessafe website has a whole page with links about the Woolworths pokies connection and earnings.