Oral Histories

Don Wright

Interview Segments on Topic: Code of Ethics/Mission Statement/Credo

Don Wright Biography

Don Wright is the Harold Burson Professor and Chair in Public Relations at Boston University. His areas of specialization include crisis management, employee communications/internal relations, reputation management and social responsibility. Professor Wright has worked full-time in corporate, agency and university public relations, and has been a corporate communications consultant for three decades.


INTERVIEWER: Is it important for a corporation to have an ethical mission statement or a credo? Should ethics training be provided for corporate staff?

WRIGHT: Absolutely. I think that if you take a look at the companies that have those codes of ethics; and I think probably the best example is Johnson & Johnson. And when you go to the Johnson & Johnson corporation—some companies that I go inside – I’ll see the ethics statement and it’ll be something framed on the wall, in a glass frame, and they could if they wanted to, take it down this afternoon, retype a new code and have it up there in the frame. When you go into the Johnson & Johnson headquarters, their credo is carved in stone in the wall. They have rarely changed that code over the past century. Most of the changes in that code have not dealt with the substance of the code, they dealt with things that we’ve let fall more into political correctness categories where they’ve changed some ‘he’s’ to ‘theys’ and so forth and so on, to make the language more common. I also think that the companies that have codes of ethics and follow them, like Johnson & Johnson, IBM, GE, FedEx, and UPS, and a number of other organizations, have clearly weathered critical storms much better than companies that did not. Companies such as Enron and—there’s a long list on the other side.