With Great Power: The importance of responsible business
A 4-minute Read:
With the wealth of business knowledge available on the internet and the libraries of the world, one of the most overlooked topics is business ethics. Particularly in the stages when small businesses are eager to grow, doing good business is usually a priority that will be handled ‘as it comes’.
Ideally every business should be influenced by a set of core values that guide their activities and/or strategy. By understanding how bad business impacts our own profits, industries and society, there are some steps we can take to stay out of trouble and play our part in seeing the values we stand for reflected in the world around us.
001: The Law
When we start thinking about the value of ‘good’ business practices, the law is one of the best places to start. Understanding what the law says about handling business in specific areas can help us avoid fines, legal battles and general troubles. Whether we’re creative businesses, producers or suppliers – understanding the law around what we do should be a key factor in every move our businesses make. This responsibility stretches as far as ensuring your employees and partners have their hands clean as well.
How would you respond to news about your best supplier using illegal labour? Animal testing? An ‘overlookable’ bribe? Or worse…
Overall, the law is usually a good measure of what ethical business means within a specific context. Beyond that, your own code of ethics and business values will help you stay in the right, even when the law is not as active as it could be.
Beyond legal woes, a business’ relationship with its customers is another area where doing good business really matters. Every business has the responsibility to not misinform their customers or take advantage of their social, economic or cultural issues to further economic ambitions.
In industries such as our (J&B Hive) events space and our resident bar team Satori Events, the customer responsibility includes the measures we take to ensure the responsible marketing and consumption of our products. Besides these being enforced by law, the responsibility is also closely linked to our value proposition (promise).
In other words, breaking these social codes would go against everything our community stands for. Looking at it in this way, we can see the broader importance of ethical practices in the relationships between a business and its customers.
003: Social Responsibility
Once you’ve secured the protection of your customers and the legality of your business, the next step is looking at your responsibility to society.
Today’s consumers are more environmentally and socially aware than the generations before them. Social media and other communication platforms allow news to spread quickly, while the missteps of brands and businesses are rarely forgotten. To stay in the clear, businesses should consider the environmental and social impact of their decisions and relationships.
Are your processes sustainable? Do you respect every member of society/ your community? A key part of every business’ value is the change it brings to its community or the world.
Furthermore, the world’s most heavily regulated industries have shown us how irresponsible practices by a few can lead to stricter industry laws, security measures, fines and other actions that can be especially disadvantageous to new businesses entering the game.
When all else fails, a business’ employees are the last voice of reason. All leaders have the responsibility to create an environment where employees communicate openly and (at times) disagree with what they’ve been told. Many ‘PR disasters’ could be avoided if businesses invited valuable advice and information from employees. For these and many reasons, It’s crucial for a business to invest in the relationship it has with its employees.
By looking deeper into ethics, we can see how the issue of good values goes beyond just being good or bad. As businesses, there are many reasons and measures that can and should be applied to ensure ethical practices.
The point is not to become afraid of the risks involved in doing business, but to understand the value of binding ourselves to some standard of honour.
Beyond such, the fact that every leader has their own values and morals suggests that the vision for better businesses, better societies and a better world could begin on a personal level. Otherwise, if all else fails, there are 3 maxims that can help our businesses stay in the green, even when we’re doing the bare minimum:
- Don’t lie.
- Don’t cheat.
- Don’t steal.
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Lungelo Hlela is a Digital Copywriter based in Johannesburg, South Africa. When he’s not writing for brands, most of his work includes themes about social issues, history and popular culture. Follow him @lungelosam for more of his existentialist ramblings and romantic ideals.