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Are We Ethical Wimps? Or Just Prudent?

The Enron case is a major ethical wake-up call for our industry.

The Enron case is a major ethical wake-up call for our industry. Meanwhile AAPG has been struggling with its commitment to the Code of Ethics for several years.

We want to be resolute and reputable with our commitment to ethics — but we also contend with living in a highly litigious world.

We may be at a crossroad and need to decide if we will do what is necessary to make the Code of Ethics meaningful, or if we should just scrap it.

If we decide to keep our Code of Ethics, we need to practice it, teach it and enforce it.

Practice It!

By committing to practice it, we individually must adhere to this code, and we especially need to set this standard within and for our companies — because individuals do set the standards for companies.

As individuals, daunting of a task as it is, we would have to commit to filing complaints when they are truly valid, especially when doing so can protect others from similar harm. And we have to develop the wisdom NOT to file personal and frivolous suits. A grievance MUST be absolutely provable, or it wastes everyone's time — and makes the plaintiff the fool.

I am as guilty as the next person in not filing grievances, not wanting to get sidetracked from what I love to do and be forced to do what I despise — becoming embroiled in a legal dispute.

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The Enron case is a major ethical wake-up call for our industry. Meanwhile AAPG has been struggling with its commitment to the Code of Ethics for several years.

We want to be resolute and reputable with our commitment to ethics — but we also contend with living in a highly litigious world.

We may be at a crossroad and need to decide if we will do what is necessary to make the Code of Ethics meaningful, or if we should just scrap it.

If we decide to keep our Code of Ethics, we need to practice it, teach it and enforce it.

Practice It!

By committing to practice it, we individually must adhere to this code, and we especially need to set this standard within and for our companies — because individuals do set the standards for companies.

As individuals, daunting of a task as it is, we would have to commit to filing complaints when they are truly valid, especially when doing so can protect others from similar harm. And we have to develop the wisdom NOT to file personal and frivolous suits. A grievance MUST be absolutely provable, or it wastes everyone's time — and makes the plaintiff the fool.

I am as guilty as the next person in not filing grievances, not wanting to get sidetracked from what I love to do and be forced to do what I despise — becoming embroiled in a legal dispute.

From my own experience, I expect we are just not bothering. Why? Well, like me, many may just not want to mess with the hassle. Like most people in this industry, I have had my share of dishonest encounters. I have declined the fight because I didn't wish to endure the financial and emotional expense.

Some have declined the fight because they don't have any confidence that AAPG can deliver on our Code.

Let's Teach It!

Did you have an ethics class in your university program? Does your alma mater offer one now?

I will never forget the great Edgar Owen, author of the Trek of the Oil Finders (AAPG Memoir 6), teaching ethics at The University of Texas at Austin when I was a student. His words are indelibly burned into my memory.

Wouldn't it be a step forward if every petroleum geology curriculum taught professional ethics?

Most companies do publish their ethical expectations. But wouldn't it be more effective if they provided regular instruction on ethical behaviors AS DEFINED by that company. This is more important because we have so many multi-national, multi-cultural companies today. We cannot assume that people of every culture in the world define ethical behavior consistently. No culture has a monopoly on the best definition of ethics.

Therefore it is incumbent upon a company to state policies and to teach employees with examples demonstrating their expectations.

And I believe AAPG could offer a service by creating classes and visiting lectures on ethics, so that within our organization the message is clear and our expectations are unambiguous.

And Let's Enforce It!

Our Ethics Committee, our Advisory Council and our Executive Committee all play a role in this enforcement. We will have to be more resolute, and painstakingly careful.

And we must be protected in this effort. If these three bodies are asked to stand up to uphold AAPG's standards, they must be insured against litigation — because it WILL happen! And it could happen often.

This means making a financial commitment with AAPG's budget. Legal battles cost money, cost time and cost emotional toil.

Are we ready to invest our dues this way?

If not, then we cannot expect geologists to volunteer their time making these difficult decisions while risking their own financial and mental wellbeing.

Or … Should We Scrap It?

So maybe we decide it is asking too much. Maybe we decide AAPG cannot uphold the Code of Ethics. Maybe we don't want to spend our time and association money that way. Maybe we would rather spend time doing geology, finding oil and gas and reading a new technical paper.

Is it more prudent to acknowledge the cost is too high, the goods are not deliverable?

This is an important decision for all members to think about and to voice their preference.

Are you willing for a portion of your dues to be dedicated for ethics enforcement?

Are you willing to stick YOUR neck out?

Willing to serve the association by being on an Ethics Committee?

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