A global trend is the greater awareness of good Business Ethics and the performance of organisations against their Social Responsibility obligations.
Failing to understand and recognise the importance of these issues may prove to be a business killer, particularly when an organisation gets it wrong. The speed and transparency of modern media are unforgiving.
By contrast, greater public expectation and awareness of what is right and wrong, the basic foundation of the ethical principles, enables organisations which demonstrate solid ethical and responsible foundations to strengthen their reputation, and by so doing, increase their market share, improve staff retention and generally, get to feel good about themselves.
Business Ethics – not just the Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly
We are all taught basic ethics at a young age. Don’t steal, don’t cheat, don’t blame your sister for the cake missing from the fridge if you are the culprit.
At its most fundamental level, ethics (and business ethics) involves distinguishing from right from the wrong and then doing the right rather than the wrong thing.
Unfortunately, ethical dilemmas are rarely that simple and particularly so in relation to business ethics.
No, a business should not steal another’s intellectual property, mislead a court about doing so and if caught, blame others rather than accept responsibility, however these are not the areas in which organisations run into issues. If a business is doing any of this then it will be doing so with its eyes open.
The more problematic area for business ethics is where the organisation is acting legally but where its actions are morally dubious. Where they are blindsided and unprepared for the consequences.
For instance, did Cambridge Analytica break any laws with its data harvesting? Why should it matter how old the employees are who manufacture the soccer balls you sell? How much should a supermarket pay for the litre of milk it will sell to its customers? All issues that have affected major corporations.
When organisations get it wrong, there is no hiding from the speed of the internet. Viral outrage on Facebook is now the building blocks for mainstream news stories. The reputation and branding of an organisation can be damaged so swiftly, even in instances where they have acted within legal requirements.
Good business ethics is about doing what is right by users, customers, suppliers and employees and to society as a whole, without losing sight of the organisations reason for being. To do this an organisation must be able to recognise what is ‘right’ and not just what is lawful.
When it does so, a healthy workplace culture will result, delivering strong values throughout its workforce, and the rewards that follow. Responsible and committed employees deliver high levels of productivity and greater creativity within the organisation. New ideas, new products and new practices lead to improvement. This leads to growth and so on.
Practicing good business ethics in the majority of instances is an important ingredient in the recipe for success.
Like individuals, organisations have a responsibility towards the wider impact that decisions taken today will have on generations to come.
Short-term gains at the expense of longer-term problems is not acceptable.
Social Responsibility is a crucial part of business ethics. A responsible organisation considers and recognises the impact that its decisions and activities impact on society and the environment; and behaves in a manner that positively contributes to the sustainable development, health and welfare of society.
It is an expectation than organisations will not exploit people or the environment in the pursuit of profit, behaving and conducting business ethically and with sensitivity towards social, cultural, economic, and environmental issues.
This can entail designing products which are recyclable or energy efficient. It can be the adoption of lean manufacturing processes to eliminate waste or sustainably sourcing raw materials.
Revisiting safe working practices and ethically managing supply chains to eliminate abuse are simple steps towards improving social welfare.
Organisations that act responsibly and demonstrate social awareness should benefit from the support of the society which it helps to improve.
Benefits of Corporate Social Responsibility
CSR can be thought of in many ways. The concept is a sort of ‘business karma’.
A notion that if a business does more that purely act in the interests of maximising profit,
but appreciates that by going that small step further of recognising that its decision and contributions will have a wider impact on society,
there are greater rewards than that warm feeling on doing the right thing.
Some of the benefits of corporate social responsibility
- Positive brand awareness and public image.
- Consumers increasingly consider public image when deciding whether to buy from you.
- Businesses committed to ethical practices, are recognised for it.
- Companies found to engage is less that ethical practices are shunned.
- Word spreads rapidly. Negative press spreads further still.
- Greater employee engagement.
- It is difficult to imagine what type of employee wouldn’t prefer to work for an organisation that is recognised positively within its sector than negatively. A henchman in a James Bond movie is the only example that springs to mind.
- Employee engagement increases for those employees working for a company in which they are proud to be employed. Managed correctly your workforce will become your biggest advocates.
- Cost savings.
- It is a myth that ethical sourcing and manufacture incurs cost. It is not necessarily the case.
- Changes to production methods, product packaging and service delivery can often result in the double benefit of reducing cost spend while also improving sustainability.
- A prime example is the overdue initiative to abolish single use plastic carrier bags. This change to retail practice assisted with the increasing problem of non-biodegradable waste while equally reduced the spend for retailers in having to supply the same. A win win.
- Combine internal initiatives to increase sustainability and reduce cost, with an engaged and committed workforce, and reap the dividends.
- Standing out against the competition.
- In business we are often too modest. Overcoming praise shyness is something usually reserved once a year for industry dinners.
- If you do something good, particularly something ‘for good’, tell people about it and use it as leverage to stand out against other businesses.
- Your clients and customers will prefer to be associated with a business that is recognised as behaving responsibly. Larger organisations and public sector clients will avoid relationships with organisations that cannot positively demonstrate their commitment to such initiatives.
- With this comes better performance, greater productivity and higher staff retention. Recruitment is easier with the better candidates choosing you as an employer of choice.
What are you waiting for?
Starting to include CSR within your business planning can be daunting.
Approaching the CFO and asking for a budget to spend planning for changes which will not immediately generate income is probably not a discussion anyone puts as a priority in their weekly things to do list.
However, failing to recognise that this is ‘a movement’, a societal change which is happening, and getting on board with it, could result in your organisation being left behind.
Embracing CSR and including this in your business strategy going forward is the way to go.
Cultural change within your organisation does not have to be a blind leap. It certainly does not have to be one in which you feel unsupported.
We provide guidance and support with business consulting and change strategies. Our approach is practical and approachable. Innovation lies at the core of what Big Jump does. Progress requires change.
If you require assistance with CSR adoption support, organisational change management or any of the areas in which we support businesses please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Is your organisation Modern Slavery Compliant?
The Modern Slavery Act 2018 became law on 1 January 2019. It introduces legal requirements early next year.
While it presents businesses with additional challenges to negotiate to stay compliant, it also new opportunities to improve their supply chain management and ethical trade practices.
Organisations responding positively can seize the opportunity to stand out as leaders in the growing ethics in business movement, and by so doing steal a march on the competition.
The Modern Slavery Act requires certain commercial organisations or companies to take positive measures to eradicate this problem, including producing and publishing a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year, and demonstrating their commitment to ending what is an increasing global problem.
The Act was introduced in response to international concerns around modern slavery and forced labour across national and international supply chains. Similar acts introduced international have already resulted in prosecutions, fines and adverse results for those organisations not adapting to this change.
Rather than viewing the Act as simply a burden, proactive measures towards provides the chance for organisations to demonstrate their legal and ethical commitment to ensuring the proper treatment of people locally and globally through the good management of their supply chains.
It is an opportunity for business to review its existing supply chains and to contribute to the growing desire for greater ethics in business.
Ethics in business
The expediential growth of social media and consumer knowledge has seen organisations shamed for both accidental and deliberate examples of pure ethical practice. Increasingly consumers and users choose organisations based on reputation and image.
Avoiding practices that may result in an organisation being on the wrong side of its moral and social obligations is essential.
Organisations that are able to demonstrate strong core values earn the respect of their target market.
Embracing and driving the positive measures required by the Modern Slavery Act provides the ability to demonstrate good ethical practice and to increase their attractiveness to consumers, shareholders, investors, employees and other stakeholders.
It reduces potential prosecutions, avoids sensitive legal and moral issues, and provides genuine positive choices for consumers and employees.
We are committed to ethical business and commercial social responsibility.
As proponents of these beliefs, we have acquired a significant knowledge around the issues affecting modern organisations, developed strategies to assist in these areas and have prepared tools that support organisations to benefit from the positive results that can be derived from improving internal processes to embrace these concepts.
Our combined experience as project managers, lean and agile practitioners and as lawyers provides a unique skill set from which to share our insights with others. Our approach is different and can be tailored to meet the needs of most organisations.
We provide workshops, training and support in this space, combining both the essential and practical elements of legal compliance with the core Big Jump principles of innovation and entrepreneurism.
What you will learn?
Attendees of the workshop will gain the following skills:
- the ability to what Modern Slavery and to take steps to eradicate it from the organisation;
- to understand the legal and moral obligations placed upon commercial organisations and companies and to ensure compliance;
- to develop and produce a relevant modern slavery statement;
- the increased awareness to develop initiatives within the organisation building on the modern slavery act and good business ethics.
Who should attend?
Practically this workshop will be most relevant to employees of organisations where compliance with the modern slavery act is compulsory and those who supply or have the potential to supply those organisations.
It is aimed at being of relevance to all employees and not just those in the procurement, human resources or management space.
It will also be value to those tasked by organisations to coordinate modern slavery initiatives within organisations.