TIt’s been a funny summer, another hot one yet it has been pouring for most of August. The weather seems to be messed up and at times it feels, or certainly looks more like November outside.

Thunder and lightning has been a common occurrence throughout the season and last week it resulted in widespread power outages affecting at least a million people over the Bristish Isles. This is the number of people directly affected, in that they had no electricity for a period, yet the number indirectly affected was much larger. 

Trains were delayed, traffic lights stopped working and even a hospital was blacked out. Apparently the two backup generators failed to start when the current failed. Imagine if you or your loved one had been on the operating table at the time.

Fortunately this is not a common occurrence in this country. National infrastructure is taken seriously.

This is supposed to be a blog about business ethics and you may be wondering where my ramblings are going but during the coverage of the power outage I could not help thinking about the poor customers, stranded on the trains, stuck in traffic jams and lying on hospital gurneys.

What had happened, I asked myself, to these organisation’s business continuity or disaster recovery plans? Is there an issue of ethics here?

If a business provides services to a range of customers that they rely heavily upon is it incumbent upon them to have functional business continuity in operation? Is it unethical that they either don’t have, or that it doesn’t work?

Having given it some thought, I think the answer is yes. All businesses have a responsibility to their customers but some have a far greater responsibility than others, particularly in services with a vulnerable client base.

My questions are therefore:

  • Have you put in place reasonable measures to ensure that those people who rely upon your services will continue to get what they need in the event of an unexpected incident?
  • If you have, have you tested these measures recently?
  • Do the members of your team know what to do if service is disrupted?

If the answer to these is no, then do you consider that this is an ethical response?