Put simply: ethics is a system of moral principles, while business is defined as an organization or individual engaged in professional activities to produce and sell goods and services for profit. So, here’s the question – how can these two practices align? If you’re an entrepreneur that wants to make money for the right reasons, here are some ideas to get you started
Establish a personal code of ethics.
Begin by identifying your core values. In other words, what you consider to be morally right and wrong. Being honest and up-front is a decent value to uphold, while unethical behavior could involve lying or embellishing the truth. Once you have a few in mind, note them so you can refer back to them.
Some other examples of ethical practices include: professionalism, confidentiality, taking responsibility, showing respect, acting fairly and lawfully, committing to sustainability.
Apply ethics to business.
Once you have established your ethics, you can transfer them to business practices. As an example, here a few ways to uphold honesty in your business:
- State the facts with the products or services you offer.
- Update product/service descriptions with relevant changes.
- Keep your word and deliver on your commitments.
- Tell your employees the truth.
- Keep an honest network.
A and B are essential in building consumer trust, while C will earn respect from other businesses with which you deal. D and E ensure that you, and the professionals you associate with, maintain a decent standard of ethics.
Granted, it’s not an easy task to always uphold ethical business practices. But remember, any unethical action may well come back to bite, especially now in a more transparent world. Here are some more ideas on how to stay honest in business.
Make your ethical code referable.
It’s useful to make your code of ethics accessible to consumers, other businesses, and your employees. One way to do this is by adding a dedicated web page to your business website, titled ‘Our Values’, for example. A web page will also clarify what the organization values to potential employees – whether it encourages or discourages them from applying. For instance, social workers typically go into the field because the work they do aligns with their core values. Doing an online master’s in social work will give you the chance to practice in one of the most ethical businesses there is.
Spot ethical issues.
It is one thing to outline a code of ethics, but spotting ethical issues before they become can disrupt your business is the next step. Issues can look like employees acting against the established ethical standards or other companies you deal with being dishonest about their ethics, therefore taking advantage of you.
Solve ethical issues.
Once you identify the issue, you can ask questions before deciding how to solve the ethical dilemma. This decision-making tool suggests a What, Why, How, and Who system. But in any case, it’s crucial to study the facts, refer to your ethical code in business, and come up with a plan of action. It might involve some difficult decisions, but your business’s integrity will be better off in the long-run.
So, to apply ethics to your business, it’s vital to determine your core values and see how these could apply to business. The next step is to ensure your code of ethics is made clear to your consumers, employees, and business associates. In this way, ethical issues can be spotted and solved.
Now the question of how to apply ethics to business is answered, it’s time to look at why business ethics are beneficial?
Although ethics may not be conducive to short-term profits, a company can achieve ethics and earnings in the long run. So let’s take a look at some of these benefits.
Aligning employee ethical behaviors with those of the business increases motivation and performance. Businesses can achieve this with open dialogue and support, which in turn creates a feeling of community in the workplace. And the good news is that happier employees usually means greater productivity. According to a study by Oxford University, happy employees are 13 percent more productive.
Creates a strong public image.
A socially responsible business is attractive to consumers as it shows the business is concerned with more than just profit. In fact, companies can use their code of ethics as a useful marketing tool. A business will benefit from calling attention to their ethical practices, especially if they differ from their competitors by going the extra mile.
For example, if products are sustainably sourced, consumers in today’s environmentally conscious market will be more inclined to trust the business and buy from them.
Take Starbucks, the largest coffeehouse company globally; they are committed to 100 percent sustainably sourced coffee; they even use third party giants to verify their ethical sourcing.
Helps manage business difficulties.
Having a code of ethics will help navigate difficult times, acting as a moral compass. When it comes to ethical dilemmas, you will need to make decisions that align with the organization’s ethical standards. You can deal with dissent from those under fire by referring to the code of ethics, which employees and associate businesses subscribed to from the start.
For instance, most ethical businesses consciously hire people with different characteristics and backgrounds to promote equal and fair treatment. If any discriminatory dilemma arises, those involved can be dealt with seriously because the ethical standard was made clear from the outset.
Improves society overtime.
Improving society through business ethics does not happen overnight, and a single business will not achieve it by any stretch. But if individual companies set the standard when it comes to ethics, other companies will follow. Employee rights, for example, any company that does not respect the rights of its employees is usually deemed unethical, will lose consumer trust, and will generate less revenue.
Strong business ethics cultivate productivity, build a compelling public image, help solve business dilemmas, and improve society over time.