Bright HK on “Ethics, Business & Spirituality”

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Former Vice-Chairman and CEO of the InterContinental Hotels Group worldwide and co-founder of Regent International Hotels considers the ethical dilemmas of the modern businessman.

(Photo credit: Bright Hong Kong)

Dr Van Praag said that the cause of the so called mid-life crises and the success crises are often related to a lack of balance in our lives. If we do not take time to be in touch regularly with our own soul, we tend to lose the ethical inspiration. That´s why making ethically optimal decisions in business represents a challenge to the individual. Dr Van Praag also said that personal ethics and business responsibility are not mutually exclusive.

Van Praag explained that humankind has evolved making the current conditions of life harder than in the past, when the main concern was with fairness of business and transactions. Today there are many ethical dilemmas that are even more important than this universal principle. Some of them are related to environmental issues. Other dilemmas arise from  social consequences, for example, arising from cost reduction measures to ensure the viability of business operations. This is not limited to the suffering of employees and their families that could be directly affected. Implications arise from the extended effects on people throughout a  very complicated supply chain of services and products.

Dr. Van Praag also used the concept of two dimensions to build ethical decisions. One dimension is  motivation and the second he articulated arises from eliminating the illusion of separateness.

In the first case, Van Praag explained said that motivation is the effort to achieve the best possible result for everyone in order to reach the the greatest balance of good over harm. The second dimension relates to the idea that a company, industry, economy or individual are independent of their context. All the challenges that we face today are global and deeply interconnected. The irony is that despite the great interdependence, we have become more isolated, more disconnected from each other. We need to connect the dots of our intimate relationship with the rest of the world.

Dr John Van Praag is a classicist from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, was Chief Executive Officer of the InterContinental Hotels Group worldwide. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (United Kingdom) and a poet, author of two books of poetry, Echoes of Timelessness and Empty Sea. He is currently working on a book on spirituality to be published under the title Beyond Thought.


Other notables attending included:

  • Pat Fok – renowned photographer and daughter to the late Henry Fok,
  • Fern Ngai – CEO at Community Business,
  • Daniel de Blocq – Chairman of the Dutch Chamber of Commerce in HK and member of the Business Ethics Development Advisory Committee which is part of ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption),
  • Carlo Imò – Head of Kering Asia Pacific,
  • Kathleen Ferrier – former Dutch MP, and  co-founder of Bright Hong Kong,
  • Servane Gandais – Attache for Education, Consulate of France


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