What do Volkswagen, a peanut butter recall and international soccer have in common?
They’ve all been part of high-profile scandals that put the spotlight on the importance of integrity — as well as the devastating consequences of failing to do what’s right.
Take the Volkswagen scandal. Europe’s largest automaker admitted that millions of its cars worldwide were equipped with software used to cheat emissions tests. As a result, the company posted its first quarterly loss in 15 years, its CEO was forced to step down and the company will spend billions to bring cars with the illegal software into compliance with emissions standards. Volkswagen is now a brand that could be irreparably damaged. It’s all due to a lack of integrity — a simple sense of what’s right and wrong —among its top executives.
And then there is Stewart Parnell of The Peanut Corporation of America. He recently became the first corporate executive ever to be convicted of federal felony charges related to food poisoning. Evidence shows that he was aware that a peanut butter shipment was contaminated with salmonella, but decided to ship it anyway. At a crucial moment, he failed to do the right thing. The result? The outbreak sickened 714 people in 46 states and may have contributed to nine deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. His company is no longer operating.
And then there’s international soccer. Nine FIFA executives were accused of pocketing more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks over not weeks, months or even a year — but 10 years. The announcements that soccer executives were being arrested and criminally charged took the world by surprise.
Integrity means doing the right thing all the time, even when doing so is inconvenient, costly, uncomfortable or even painful. Building a reputation of integrity takes years and years, and as Volkswagen, Peanut Corporation of America and a group of high-profile soccer executives discovered, it can be wiped out in seconds. Living a life of integrity is living a life without fear. Says author Zig Ziglar: ‘With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide.’