The Importance of Being Ethical
The Importance of Being Ethical
Businesses have rules to follow - usually a multitude of them! Many of those rules have to do with safety, legal and financial considerations. Following those rules ensure that you’re in compliance with industry and governmental regulations. Without adherence to those rules, your business could not operate at all.
A business, as you well know, runs on more than the just that upper echelon of rules and regulations. On the hierarchy of rules that govern a business’ operations, the level directly below simple compliance to regulations is equally as important, yet infinitely more intricate - and subjective. This is where ethics enter the picture.
According to yourdictionary.com, the word ethics is defined as, “a moral philosophy or code of morals practiced by a person or group of people.” It goes on to say that, “An example of ethics is the code of conduct set by a business.” Simply put, most businesses run according to some basic standard of practices and behavior which is based upon a shared moral understanding. Clearly, some ethical issues can be complicated and far from simply wrong or right. Nonetheless, it is important for every business to wade into that often-murky pond of ethics. That is the significant challenge: To define, communicate and implement its own brand of ethics which guide the intentions and actions of the entire company.
What are business ethics?
There are general business ethics that most businesses adopt, such as those which would prohibit stealing, lying, slothful behavior, violence and dishonest practices while encouraging integrity, a degree of moral conduct and hard work.
In recent years, the topic of ethics in business has expanded to include guiding principles above and beyond those of basic decency and morality. Many companies expand their definition of ethics to articulate and express their company identity, e.g., forward-thinking, compassionate or generous-natured. It is common practice for a business to include within its definition of ethics more lofty principles like environmentally friendly, fair trade, and cruelty-free.
Why are business ethics important?
The ethics which govern your company could be considered the manifestation of your business’ very spirit. Sharing that spirit is a way to influence everyone who deals with your company. The same ethics must be exercised among and toward owners, upper management, employees, vendors and customers alike. When your business presents a cohesive, consistent ethical face, those principles become synonymous with your company.
Before you know it, your company has a higher, more positive reputation, due to its ethical stance and practices. Other businesses notice and regard you as a leader in the industry for going above and beyond what is required to serve your market. An ethical environment fosters trust among co-workers, creating a team who works under a strong ethical code that's significantly more secure. Existing employees will feel more secure in carrying out their duties, with the knowledge that they are working in an atmosphere that values ethical standards. That ethical quality makes you an attractive employer for top-notch employees. Customers notice and will use your ethical reputation as a decision-making tool when making a purchase or choosing a service. Other than some extra consideration and implementation effort, there’s no downside to pumping up the ethical impact of your business.
How can your business be more ethical?
It’s important to build your business’ ethical principles upon that which is pertinent to your business. This makes your stance infinitely more meaningful. Carefully consider your ethical policies - fewer, fleshed out and actionable ones are generally better than a lot of vague ones.
If you are, for instance, in a food-related industry, incorporating an ethics policy having to do with minimizing food waste might be appropriate. Back up such a “no waste” ethic by implementing programs within your company for donating surplus, short-dated or cosmetically damaged food items to needy causes.
How can your business best implement its ethics vision?
- Determine your particular business’ ethical policies and commit them to writing.
- Determine the consequences for ethics violations.
- Communicate your ethics policies to employees both in writing (signage, pamphlet, handbook…) and in every day-to-day interaction, whether in person, by phone or by email.
- Make the process of reporting ethics violations simple and straightforward.
- Be certain to thoroughly investigate any reports and follow through with swift action to remedy the issue.
Rules are a fact of business life - but following some rules make us better and stronger for the effort. Business ethics are a combination of rules of common, civil workplace decency and guidelines you choose to follow based upon your values and moral code. Having and implementing high ethical standards can guide your whole company toward great success.
How do ethics play a part in your business’ success?
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