A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

The Ethics Matrix

Jim Stevenson, CEO of Bellows Construction, talked recently about his view on the Ethics Matrix, which is a way to explain what we consider to be right versus wrong as a society and as individuals. 

Jim introduced the topic by stating that although many people might think that the laws a society makes are the highest form of law, in fact these are actually the lowest.  These laws which communities enact are called Human Positive Laws, and reflect what the community and society regard as important and “moral” at one particular point in time.  Above these laws are Ethics, which include standards which groups such as doctors or lawyers hold themselves to across regions and throughout history.  For example, ever since Hippocrates began practicing medicine in ancient Greece, doctors have vowed not to use their knowledge to deliberately harm anyone.  At the top of the spectrum there is Natural Law.  These are laws of humanity which are things we all just know are true.  Examples include knowing that it is wrong to murder, to be untruthful or to steal.  These are truths which are in us naturally – we are all born with the ability to learn them simply because we are human. 

Additionally, we are all born with a conscience, which matures as we come to a fuller understanding of law beginning with the Human Laws and advancing as we understand and embrace Ethics and finally Natural Law.  In the following video, Stevenson explains further and provides more examples of the different types of laws.

Stevenson then answered a few questions about this topic and how it applies to the construction industry.  The following video contains his responses.

Stevenson wrapped up the interview with giving several examples of where Natural Law has been used to advance human rights throughout history.

Stevenson is the Chair of the Houston Workforce Initiative Task Force and currently serves as the 2011 Chairman of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) Houston.  Bellows Construction is an associate member of the Construction Owners Association of America (COAA).


Anonymous's picture

I find it unfortunate that ethics needs to be discussed in the Construction Industry. Being a cut throat business, I have seen the dark side of human ethics and / or morals. Bid rigging and collaboration are a costly duo which has reared its ugly head more than once in my career. After spending days on a bid, I've lost jobs worth tens of thousands of dollars by exactly $100! In one instance, the subcontractors sister worked for the GC and reportedly called him and passed on everyone's pricing.

There have been instances of material substitution, document tampering, Inspector payoffs etc. by some of the lower echelon in the Houston trade. The majority of the GCs I have worked with are decent, moral and ethical businessmen. Natural Law rarely comes into play from what I've seen.

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