Dilemma: Recycling

17 August 2019

Tags: Decision-making, Community

This dilemma addresses issues of conflicts of interest, environmental responsibility and duty of confidentiality.

Richard and Mary are old friends who met at university. Mary went on to set up her own recycling company, and she has been very successful. Richard became a partner in his firm, one of the top Chartered Surveyors in the area. Mary and Richard have never worked together. Richard is very conscientious about how it might be perceived as a conflict of interest if they did, and he does not want to make any difficulties for the firm.

They continue to see each other socially; their spouses get on well and they meet at least once a month for drinks or dinner or a trip to the theatre. Mary likes to bounce ideas off Richard as she values his opinion, and at one dinner she mentions that she’s taken a look at some land for a potential development. For some time she has been looking to start an ambitious project and there will be a lot riding on it, both professionally for Mary and personally for her family.

“The seller is asking a great price for it! I really think this is the land we need,” she says.

Richard is unsure, but the name seems familiar to him. Back at the office the next day, he asks one of his team who says that yes, the firm had helped the seller with a survey to prepare the land for sale. The land is going cheap because it is very difficult to sell. It would make an ideal waste facility.

Richard checks the information. His colleague is right – the land is unsuitable for property development because of it was a previous mining site, so unstable. But Richard is also concerned because the land is close to an area where Richard’s family live. Indeed he likes to go there mountain biking with his children at weekends. He does not really want a waste site on his doorstep.
What do you think Richard should do?