When we think about business people, we usually have an image of Wolf of the Wall Street or Patrick Bateman in our mind. This is changing in the 21st century. With numerous movements and initiatives raising awareness of human rights and righteous treatment of all people, it is difficult to remain a cold-blooded manager with no empathy, even if that’s who you really are (and that’s kind of scary! yikes!).
Some ethical principles are defined by law. For example, many companies around the world are implementing environmental policies. On the other hand, ethical policies of companies can vary, depending on a country or a region they’re operating in. It is well known that, if you want to start your business in Europe, you have to have extensive health care and social policies in order to comply with the laws of the European Union, but also to be a competitive employer. You should definitely do some research about the ethical standards in the area where you’re planning to open your business.
What is important to consider is how your ethical policies are complementing your business policy in general. It makes no sense to develop policies which harm your business. It is also meaningless to conduct unethical business. This is, obviously, a two-way street. You should find some balance between ethics and profits. One example of how to do it is Microsoft, where it is known that employees can actually sleep or play video games at work, as long as they remain productive. So, it doesn’t matter much if you keep a strict 9-5 work policy that generates unhappy and exhausted employees. You should consider how you can be empathetic towards your employees and their personal needs. Someone might be a morning person, while someone might be a homebody. If you can adjust to those specific, individual needs, you’re off to a good start.
Always keep the relationship between leaders and employees in mind. Ethics in Leadership is extremely important. People don’t want to feel exploited. They want someone to guide them, a person eager to share their knowledge with others, rather than using those in lower ranks for personal benefit. Invest in manager seminars and educations, choose wisely when employing or promoting leaders. After all, one of the key roles of a manager is to build a strong bong between their team members and themselves. This is the only way to thrive.
Last but not least, ethics in business are heavily dependant on an industry you’re in. If you’re involved with financial markets, you should focus on eliminating insider trading, financial fraud and similar activities. If you’re in marketing, making sure that personal data of your clients and/or their clients is protected is an absolute must. The ones in energy sector have the most difficult time being ethical. Energy is a soft spot for many in the moment and it has every right to be. It is recommended to operate with renewable and sustainable energy sources. However, if you have an awesome thing going on with oil, make sure you balance it out with proper environmental policies. No one can be 100% ethical, but we can all strive for it, even the ones in oil or car industry.
Do not forget to constantly work on your corporate social responsibility. Encourage your employees to volunteer, donate money to the charity or get involved on the field – organize a beach cleaning action, collect old paper for recycling, make ‘ride your bike to work’ a thing. The possibilities are endless!