Behaving ethically and pursuing business goals are sometimes at odds with each other. Business is often about the pursuit of profit to the detriment of other matters, according to Dr Michael Schluter, founder of Britain's Relationships Foundation. Behaving ethically, however, is about taking action that is morally right, rather than action that is merely commercially advantageous.
Businesses sometimes get a bad press but this does not mean that all businesses - or even a majority - are unethical. Many businesses are run on ethical lines by morally upright management teams who act appropriately because they have principles. Any objectives set by a business of this kind will tend to be just, honest and fair because that is the nature of the management team and the character of the business as a whole.
Conversely, some businesses set ethical objectives even though they have little or no intention of keeping them because they have worked out that customers like to deal with businesses who behave honestly. These unethical businesses want to attract customers away from other businesses. Appearing to be as morally correct in business matters as other businesses with ethical objectives is a cunning ploy by some unethical companies to convince people that they are on the level and can be trusted.
The government, which helps to set the moral tone of society, has a duty to promote ethical business practices. One way they do this is by offering tax incentives to companies who pursue ethical agendas. Currently, businesses can claim significant tax relief for making investments in green technologies. Where businesses gain substantially by pursuing goals which are also deemed good for society, there is a major incentive for them to set ethical objectives.
It’s good business
Customers like dealing with companies they can trust and which have admirable social agendas as they pursue business goals. Terms like “green,” “eco-friendly,” “organic,” “natural,” “carbon-neutral” and “made from renewable resources” are used by businesses to advertise their adherence to ethical objectives. Although, according to marketing company TerraChoice, these claims are sometimes exaggerated, nevertheless it remains the case that companies pursuing ethical objectives are likely to be attractive to discerning consumers.
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images