Ethics or profits? It’s not a question at all as businesses are supposed to adhere to ethical practices. They have these codes of conduct that set out exemplary behavior expected of everyone, from the executives to employees, in the workplace.
Moreover, today’s socioeconomic and environmental conditions have pushed corporations to be more responsible and accountable for their actions. It’s a win-win situation because consumers get better products or services, the environment benefits from conservation initiatives, and companies enjoy a good public image.
For your small business, here are ideas that show why being an ethical organization is a moral and practical matter.
1. Make Good on Your Promise.
“Businesses are supposed to make money” is a given. But did you deliver on your promises made to customers? Is the product or service as excellent, as helpful, as tasty, as practical, and as beneficial as it had been advertised?
The Federal Trade Commission enforces truth-in-advertising laws that protect consumers from misleading, false, and unsubstantiated claims that can result in lawsuits and fines. For example, products with health claims or are green must be backed by solid proof. Hiring social media influencers and endorsers must also meet the standards of the FTC. As it is, a company is answerable not only to consumers but to regulatory bodies, as well.
2. Create Ethically Sourced Products.
Ethical sourcing sounds like a buzzword because big brands, like Starbucks, adopt it. But what it basically means is the procurement or production is done responsibly, sustainably, (ideally) free of anything that harms the environment, animals, and humans. Relatedly, there’s an effort to reduce packaging or make it biodegradable.
Adhering to these processes is a boost to your company’s public image, with more consumers leaning toward conscious and mindful consumption. Notably, ethical sourcing can differ from fair trade, in which organizations partner with marginalized sectors for better pricing of the latter’s products.
Manufacturing products from scratch can take a lot of resources for small businesses. As an alternative, you can buy artisanal and handmade products from local communities. Sell through the best platform that supports your e-commerce needs, and help bring in income and exposure to the local folks.
3. Treat Employees Like Customers.
It seems too idealistic until you realize that the idea is straightforward. The people you are working with every day are the same people who meet or face your clients. When you show appreciation to your employees and treat them with respect, they pass on that kind of behavior to customers.
Satisfied workers are more inclined to work harder and stick around for longer. You retain competencies, skills, and talents that add value to your business and save the cost of recruitment and training. Your employees are the company’s most important resource, after all.
4. Treat Your Employees Fairly.
From hiring to employment, companies are expected to accord fair treatment and provide equal opportunities. Doing so uplifts the morale of the staff and creates a conducive work environment.
More importantly, there are federal and state laws that protect the rights of employees and applicants. It’s expensive and time-consuming to be engaged in legal battles over discrimination, harassment, and unfair treatment in the workplace. Even a viral post on social media by a disgruntled employee can damage your reputation.
5. Observe Proper Waste Management.
The Political Economy Research Institute publishes indexes tracking US corporations responsible for air and water pollution and greenhouse emissions. Its research in 2019 noted, among other findings, that three companies released more than 5 percent of greenhouse gases in 2017.
What this all means is that your waste is not just your business because it has an impact on people, wildlife, and the environment. It’s also a requirement for your company to be compliant with environmental laws. Indeed, one of the best ways to manage waste is to prevent it. Look into practices that enable and encourage your organization to reduce, reuse, donate, and recycle.
Social Impact, Sustainability.
It’s worthwhile to check out what companies are doing to promote positive change and address the challenges facing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Clean water and energy, decent work, innovation, sustainable communities, and responsible consumption and production are lofty goals, but they can be achieved.
You can focus on being a social entrepreneur, but that’s for another topic. Whether you are a small or a big business, you can take steps toward building an ethical company and making an impact on the world.