Business ethics play a fundamental role in the South Tyrolean service company Markas.

Business ethics in Markas: a collaborative journey

29.01.2020 - Germany - Italy - Austria - Romania

All too often, economics and ethics are seen as opposites and companies are often wrongly accused of not being interested in social, ecological and humanitarian issues. In other words, they are accused of neglecting their corporate ethics out of greed for profit. But is this really the truth? Not at all for Markas. For us, it is of great importance that our corporate ethics are being respected and practiced in dealing with employees as well as with customers, suppliers or business partners. But what exactly is corporate ethics? And how did Markas define its business ethics?

Business ethics is a branch of economic ethics and focuses primarily on the moral values of a company. This also includes how economic intentions are combined with social, ecological and humanitarian actions. Fact is, that successful companies automatically make a significant contribution to the common good by creating jobs and investing in the training of their employees as well as in the sustainability and innovation of their business. At this point it’s not that easy to clearly separate these things, because without profit, a company is not able to invest in its teams and further development. On the other hand, ethical values form the basis for the economic success and authenticity of a company. And this is, where Markas’ corporate ethics come in.
With the generation change, the company management passed from Markas to Christoph and Florian Kasslatter and Evelyn Kirchmaier.

The development of the business ethics

Although the generational change was very well prepared, it was a quite difficult moment for the employees when Mario and Haidrun Kasslatter handed over the management of the company to their sons Christoph and Florian back in 2011. “Over several years or even decades, the employees had become familiar to their employer and his management style. They knew him and his ideas. Now the change in leadership was imminent and many of the employees were uncertain about what the future would bring,” says Evelyn Kirchmaier, General Manager of Markas. “With this difficult background, we decided to develop a clear corporate mission and strategy. Then as now, it is a fundamental concern of ours to maintain our identity as a family business – no matter how large our company is. It’s important to us that all our, almost 10.000, employees working with and for Markas in Italy, Austria, Germany and Romania, feel part of the family because they know and share our values themselves.

In order to define Markas’ corporate ethics, the following questions were posed: Who are we? Who do we want to be? Where do we want to go? 3 keywords were identified from these questions: Markas is reliable, committed and fair. This not only applies in dealing with employees, but also with customers, suppliers, the end-users of our services and with our environment. For this reason it is particularly important to encourage employees to make ethical behaviour a natural part of their daily work.
Der Markas Day 2012
But how do you manage to share these ideas with thousands of employees in different countries?

“A lot of companies create a strategy paper that often disappears in some drawer without being really read through. Via a paper document it’s not even possible to share the motivation, ideas and intention behind such an challenging process with your employees. For this reason, we have decided to organise a big Markas Day in 2012. The numerous participation of our employees, from the foremen to the top management, has been a great success for us and our event. We have chosen this approach to create commitment and to try to apply our corporate values to the everyday working lives of all employees,” explains Evelyn. 
After the Christoph Kasslatters’ presentation of the vision, mission and direction of Markas, the employees asked each other in a subsequent workshop what “being fair”, “being committed” and “being reliable” means to themselves. This joint workshop resulted in 9 rules which have a much higher status and significance than such rules imposed by the management.
Markas Innovation Day 2018
The values of a company develop together with the company

It’s not enough to define the values of a company only once. A company grows and changes over the time – and so do the values of a business. In the course of the Markas Leadership Program in 2017,  the guidelines developed in 2012 were reviewed together with around 60 employees of the top and middle management as well as with regional managers and salesmen. During this event, the employees were asked if the values were still up-to-date. They were also asked to decline thes values for each department, for example by questioning “what does it mean for the legal department to be fair?” or “what does it mean for the employees of the production to be committed?”. The management then developed a new strategy focused on 2030 which included a stronger international focus for Markas as well as the development of new business areas such as “Housekeeping”, “Logistics & Care” and “Facility Management”. This new strategy was finally presented during the Markas Innovation Day 2018, which was attended by 400 employees from all 4 countries.

“Throughout this time, we have seen that the process towards successful business ethics takes a lot of time. I am convinced that this process can only work with he help of great role models – starting at the very top of the company hierarchy. But the essential thing is that the authors of our corporate ethics are the employees themselves. Throughout this process they have learned and elaborated what ethical acting and leading means at Markas. And, the way I see it, this is the most precious result”, concludes Evelyn.