How Strong Ethics Are the Key to Business Survival

Katie Jennings / Marketing Insights / 23rd May 2020
Katie Jennings 23rd May 2020 Marketing Insights

Business and ethics. Two terms that are not always associated with the most harmonious of ways. For a long time, the vision of the shrewd business person who puts profit before people has been all too common, but what are business ‘ethics’, and how can they help businesses thrive in the new world we’re emerging into?

Put quite simply: business ethics are the moral standard to which you hold your business, your employees, and, most importantly, yourself. Think of your business ethics as your moral guiding compass, keeping you and your company on the path to success without compromising your core values to get there.

Sticking to a rigid set of business ethics, or values, is vital for business reputation. Businesses who are known to stick to their ethics and values, even in the face of backlash, generally tend to fare better in the long run. This is especially true for businesses who are seen to take a strong social stance on moral issues that relate to their business, like The Body Shop’s stance on animal testing, for example.

People Buy People

Business reputation will be vital as the world moves into the next phase of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Already we’re seeing that companies who make horrible decisions now that don’t seem to align with their business culture and ethics, like Bird firing 406 employees by mass Zoom call, are losing customer support and making investors think twice about being associated with companies that can be so publicly diverse from their apparent strong ethics.

Sticking to your guns is a trait that many people find endearing about a great business. Treating customers and employees with dignity while sticking to strongly held beliefs garners great respect from the public. This makes lead generation easy, as well as having a marked improvement in the level of talent a company can attract to join the team.

Setting Out on The Right Foot

Businesses must start right when it comes to great business ethics. Decide right at the beginning of your company what you stand for and why. What will you compromise, and what will you not compromise?

The inspirational speaker, and author of Start With Why, Simon Sinek discusses this theory, he says: “If you say and do the things you actually believe, you will attract people who believe in what you believe”. If you are attracting people who believe in your business ethics and values, you are attracting the kind of customers and employees you want rather than having to bow to those you don’t.

Integrity Matters

Strong business ethics are taught as a cornerstone for most high-ranking business programs. The Aston Online MBA program was recognized by CEO magazine as one of the best business MBA programs available. A strong focus on leadership and integrity are vital in today’s world.

Focusing on integrity is an essential step for businesses in the modern world. While it may have been ok to get away with dubious business practices in the past, in a world of social media and freedom access requests, it is all too easy to get caught out.

Decisions to deceive the public, on purpose, or deceiving by exclusions of truths, leave a very bitter taste in the public’s mouths. Just like when the National Trust in England was found to be investing heavily in fossil fuels. Many found this to be at odds with their apparent commitment to the environment and sustainability. The result was a huge loss of membership and a dent in the business reputation that was taken all the way to that year’s AGM. Coming hot on the heels of the much-contested decision to keep trail hunting, these decisions could have caused many members and supporters to lose faith in the charity.

Ethics Is A Top-Down Game

Business ethics should be an investment that is practiced routinely by the top levels and all the way down to the bottom levels. If your company believes in fairness and equality of opportunity, taking decisions to exclude people while allowing members at the top to be chosen not by a fair process will have your business seen as much less believable and trustworthy. Leadership must be on board with the core values of the business. This is particularly important when merging companies, one must make sure that the company that you are merging with shares the same vision, the same goals, and the same core values.

No longer in business can we live by the phrase “do what I say, not what I do”. Conducting business with a wink and a handshake is fast being very old school, customers and clients want honesty and openness, and this must come from the leadership team as well as everyone on the lower levels.

Making people feel like they are part of the team and part of the success is essential for the growth and continuation of the dream, after all when Jack Kennedy asked the janitor at NASA what he was doing his response was “Well, Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon”.

Business Ethics and Community Impact

When deciding on your business’s core values, some considerations would be given to philanthropic endeavors right from the start. This is important for two reasons: Reason 1 Customers like to feel like they are helping those in need. Supporting a company that is seen to ‘give back to the community’ makes customers feel good and increases the business’ reputation. Reason 2 You do not want to be ‘jumping on the bandwagon’. This is vitally important. If Bill Gates hadn’t been publicly concerned about a global pandemic, the Gates Foundation’s involvement in the search for a vaccine would have been seen as suspicious, as it is, it is a welcome investment.

In Conclusion

Business ethics, the core values, the moral compass, the guiding principles, the mission statement. Whatever way you want to put it, business integrity is vital for business success. At Roots, we're striving to be greener and support green issues. We do this through little things like the loo roll we buy, supplying reusable cups for our coffee runs and trying to source items locally where possible, but also by actively seeking to work with interesting companies doing great things.

A few include: Best.Energy bringing energy efficiency to business' internationally, Red Earth Developments Ltd sustainably regenerating brownfield sites & HYGI-Rail creating antimicrobial and fully recyclable handrails for a safer working environment. There's plenty more to do, but we're making progress. How does your business stack up?

Katie Jennings

Katie Jennings / Operations Director

Just like the farm dogs of her childhood, Katie herds our rag tag bunch of specialists into some semblance of order. A key liaison between the agency and our clients.