Guiding businesses with ethical values is becoming increasingly important to those within the workforce. A recent survey from Global Tolerance showed that 42 percent of employees would rather work for companies that have a positive impact on their communities and strong ethical values. This matters more to them than even earning a high salary. The difference is even more pronounced among millennials, with 64 percent saying they won’t work for a company that doesn’t show strong social responsibility practices.
Businesses that don’t lead with ethical practices risk the inability to recruit talented team members, experience poor employee performance, struggle with employee retention, and are subject to increased public scrutiny (especially in the age of social media). Additionally, organizations need to foster ethical values not just to help their companies but simply because it’s the right thing to do.
In this article, read more about the list of ethical values companies should practice, examples of what that entails, and tips for how you can promote those values in your business.
List of Ethics
Ethics go beyond staying on the right side of the law. They’re a core part of how a company behaves. If a business acts in an ethical manner at all times, it says a lot about what they value. While there are many out there, the following represent some of the foundational ethical values those in the business world should adopt:
The value of integrity often informs ethical decision making. In other words, companies that display integrity do what’s right even if experiencing tremendous pressure to go a different way. For example, this might look like holding fast to core beliefs and taking the high ground rather than the easy road. As media mogul Oprah Winfrey explains, “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”
In addition to making ethically sound decisions, people who demonstrate integrity are transparent in their business operations. One company that has shown integrity and transparency is Asana. Instead of keeping high-level board meetings a secret, executives routinely release detailed notes to their employees about their discussions and the decisions they’ve made. This keeps workers in the loop on all that is happening inside the company. Executives show they value integrity by being open with all their employees and not hiding things from them.
Ethical behavior in business should also include fairness. This means treating each individual as an equal, no matter a person’s position within the company. An organization that champions fairness promotes workplace diversity, encouraging people of different backgrounds and points of view to influence how the company operates.
Fairness in the workplace can be something as simple as not showing favoritism. The company Arbeit is one business that promotes fairness throughout its organization. Greg Jones, a customer research analyst for the company, says that fairness means “trying to be a blank page and giving everyone the same pen with which to write their story. It means all opportunities, advancement, and recognition being offered in equal measure to all qualified parties.”
All companies have bosses and managers, but that doesn’t mean they have leaders. Ethical business practices are easier to follow when one of the core values is leadership. Just because someone is in a position of power does not mean they’re a leader. True leadership displays all the ethical values of an organization, setting an example for everyone to follow. They cultivate an environment where people want to adopt these values for themselves.
One of the most effective ways to show this is through servant leadership. Servant leaders place their team’s, community’s, and customers’ needs above their own. They listen, empathize with those around them, and put themselves in others’ shoes to see things from their viewpoint. In addition to this, they resolve workplace conflict issues and hold themselves accountable for their actions. Fulfilling ethical principles is the primary focus of servant leaders, making it one of the key ways executives guide teams in a manner where morals matter most.
While honesty and integrity are closely related, honesty is leading with the intention of not deceiving or misleading others. Oftentimes, this means avoiding overstatements and misrepresentations. Additionally, being honest also involves dealing with employees and customers in a way that is sincere and earnest.
One way honesty can manifest in business is through advertising. A fascinating case of this comes from a Dutch hotel company called the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel. This business is well-known for offering an unapologetically poor customer experience. Their hilariously straightforward ad campaigns have made them world-renowned for being terrible. One campaign featured posters with phrases like, “Sorry for being excellent at losing your luggage” and “Sorry for being the best at ignoring your complaints.” This brutal honesty attracts budget-minded people looking for a place to rest their heads. By setting the right expectations, people also feel like they know exactly what they’re getting into when they book a room here.
Another ethical business practice is that of accountability. Stories of companies and executives doing everything they can to avoid accountability are all too common. From Enron to WorldCom, businesses like these show the opposite of what organizations should do when crises occur. However, companies that practice self-accountability hold themselves responsible for when things go wrong. They admit mistakes and do their best to correct them, which is more admirable than shifting blame onto others.
As Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions.” Too many companies try and refocus attention on why they shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions. Yet, organizations with accountable leaders play by a different set of ethical rules. By taking responsibility at all times, they learn from their mistakes and grow. Executives that don’t practice self-accountability, on the other hand, will more than likely make the same mistakes in the future.
The ethical core value of teamwork doesn’t just entail people working toward a common goal. It deals with respect and concern for other group members. Strong teams brainstorm with each other, collaborate, and support one another in achieving goals, which leads to greater productivity, progress, and innovation. In other words, team members make each other and the companies they work for better.
One example of teamwork in action involves multiple teams from Ford who needed to find ways to maintain the high quality of the Ford F-150 while improving it with better fuel efficiency. As the story goes, team members at the company worked closely together for a year and a half to hammer out ways to accomplish the task. The team effort grew to encompass more than a thousand people including designers, logistics experts, industry experts, and engineers. The result was 1.9 billion dollars in third-quarter earnings—a major increase from the previous year’s sales. Without teamwork, this accomplishment wouldn’t have been possible.
Companies can also demonstrate their commitment to ethics through their charity work. Charity shows kindness to the community and the world at large. It also shows dedication to a cause bigger than the organization itself. Charity involves more than just devoting time and money. It encapsulates what a company values and holds dear.
Many companies combine their charitable work with how they operate. The clothing company Ivory Ella, for example, gives up to 50 percent of its net profits every year toward the goal of helping elephants throughout the world. In fact, the whole identity of the business revolves around the causes they support, which include national parks and saving the oceans. Thanks to their efforts, they’ve donated two million dollars to charities aimed at making the world a better place.
Loyal companies strive to earn customer loyalty every day. That usually means providing high-quality products and excellent customer service. At a time when cybersecurity concerns grow by the day, it also means showing they can protect sensitive information from those with ill intent.
Businesses that are loyal to their customers usually receive that loyalty back. Many know Apple fans as loyal buyers, and this is no coincidence. This loyalty comes from sharing common values and beliefs with their customers. By encouraging their target audience to be innovative creators, Apple inspires and motivates people to build a greater future together. This vision establishes an emotional connection between the company and its buyers. Additionally, the organization is well-known for never compromising the quality of its products. As a result, Apple bridges the gap between company loyalty and customer loyalty.
How to Promote Ethical Values at Your Company
- Don’t keep executive discussions a secret.
- Treat everyone fairly and equally.
- Foster leadership qualities that encourage business ethics.
- Be honest with coworkers and customers.
- Hold everyone accountable, including yourself.
- Build teams that work well together.
- Spend time and resources on a charitable cause.
- Build loyalty with your customers by being loyal to them.
An Ethical Business is a Successful Business
Recent studies show more companies realize the importance of ethical values in the workplace. In a 2021 Global Business Ethics Survey, one in every five employees said their companies had a strong ethical culture. 20 years ago, this number was only one in 10. While this illustrates businesses are on the right track, these statistics reveal more work is still needed.
To do this, promote ethical values, which will strengthen your own values. This makes people better leaders who are capable of guiding their organizations toward a sustainable, impactful future. For business owners and executives looking to increase their leadership skills while also growing their businesses, this is a win-win situation.
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