Do Good Ethics Equal Better Profits?

How good are YOUR ethical practices?
How good are YOUR ethical practices?

“There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity.”
— Tom Peters

It doesn’t take much effort to find more than a few ethical lapses of integrity. I’d like to take a few minutes to bring up a point that is all too often lost in the media maelstrom.

Good ethics are good for business.

Whether you are trying to sell recruiting services or software, widgets or lollypops, financial products or better abs in 30 days; ethical practices that are based on moral integrity and fair, honest dealings will deliver better profits for longer periods of time. In fact, there is research that shows that businesses with a truly ethical culture enjoy better employee commitment and trust, improved investor loyalty and trust, and improved customer satisfaction and trust. All of which lead to higher profitability. (Curtis C. Verschoor, “A Study of the Link Between a Corporation’s Financial Performance and Its Commitment to Ethics”).

I don’t believe that there is any argument as to whether or not a business — whether a solo recruiter or a mega corporation — has a social responsibility to its stakeholders and to the global community at large to run their business in an ethical manner. They, and you, do.

The problem, and the challenge, is that knowing the right thing to do and doing it are two different things.

It’s a problem that is as old as mankind, and not one that will go away. Just as the recession we’ve been in can be traced to socially irresponsible ethical failures by individuals, businesses, government, and, yes, consumers. Just as the next recession will also be traceable to failures in human nature. It is not possible to legislate moral ethics and social responsibility — although many have tried and failed and others will keep trying.

That may seem both cynical and pessimistic, but it’s apparent that money still trumps all for many businesses and individuals. For example, a recent article in the New York Times pointed with glee at a group of freshly minted Harvard MBA’s who were going to take an oath to abide by ethical principles at their future jobs and careers. Yet fewer than 25 percent of that graduating class signed up to take the oath. Click here for the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/30/business/30oath.html]

The same article notes that ethics study programs at the college level are growing. One can only ponder why, and what impact, if any, they may have today or in the future.

So, are businesses today more socially responsible, or less?

The Internet and other social media give consumers an amazingly powerful light to shine on those corporations whose practices are less than socially responsible. Those businesses who truly walk the talk will be socially responsible and reap the rewards. Those that don’t deserve to fail — assuming of course that the government doesn’t bail them out with our tax dollars.

I believe that learning the mechanics, methods and techniques of ethical business decision-making is absolutely necessary in order to be socially aware and responsible. However, it is no substitute for ethical integrity that is quite likely a combination of that which is ingrained into a person from childhood and their innate moral character. Thus, a businesses’ operations will reflect the character and socially responsible awareness of those employed.

At the end of the day then, when you’re counting the lucre from the deal you just made, you should be able to do so with a clear conscience.

The most important persuasion tool you have in your entire arsenal is integrity.”
— Zig Ziglar

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