Good Ethics, Good Business
Conscience in the workplace translates to happy customers
So you got into business because you’re good with numbers. Or you found a product niche in the marketplace and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be your own boss. But once the doors are thrown open and the proverbial welcome mat rolled out to customers, what keeps a steady stream of clients coming in?
The short answer is good business ethics, but what does that mean?
Wikipedia says, “… theorists contend that a business has moral duties that extend well beyond serving the interests of its owners or stockholders, and that these duties consist of more than simply obeying the law. They believe a business has moral responsibilities to so-called stakeholders, people who have an interest in the conduct of the business, which might include employees, customers, vendors, the local community, or even society as a whole. They would say that stakeholders have certain rights with regard to how the business operates, and some would even suggest that this even includes rights of governance.”
In plain English, business ethics are the rules and principles governing business conduct, spurred by a sense of what is ethically right and wrong.
According to Ask.com, “Most people involved in business – whether functioning as a small business owner, employee or chief executive officer of a multinational company – eventually face ethical or moral dilemmas in the workplace.”
One wrong move can leave customers searching the Web for an alternative to doing business with an offending company or warning friends and relatives to steer clear. Another misstep and shareholders might lose confidence in a company’s ability to conduct business properly.
According to the Better Business Bureau, “For a business to succeed, it must earn the respect and confidence of those it aspires to serve.”
Whether a business is a sole proprietorship or a company with more than 100 employees, it becomes essential for each individual in that organization to play a significant role in ensuring strict adherence to a code of ethics. And because ethics are in some ways open to interpretation, the BBB offers a code of ethics including six points of character that act as guideposts on the path to an ethically sound company:
- Equality – We shall recognize the individual rights of all members of the community and display a fair sense of justice.
- Truth – We shall make accurate claims to our customers, use only competent testimonials, and strive to be open about all aspects of the products or services we offer.
- Honesty – We shall uphold the principle of fair play and be vigilant against conduct which has the intent, capability or effect of being deceptive towards our customers.
- Integrity – We shall not merely abide by the law in a technical way but will strive to serve our customers with honest values, avoiding all devices and schemes which prey on human ignorance or gullibility.
- Cooperativeness – We shall support a healthy marketplace for all through cooperation with customers, other businesses, and every person who would benefit from an ethical, free-market system.
- Self Regulation – We will honor all commitments and guarantees, and seek to resolve any disputes in a fair and expeditious manner. We will investigate and fully inform the consumer of any health, environmental, safety or other hazards posed by the normal use of our products or service.
The Better Business Bureau of Central Indiana closely follows its own code of ethics and takes this philosophy of fairness a step further with its mission statement: “to promote and foster the highest ethical relationship between business and the public through voluntary self-regulation, consumer and business education and service excellence.”
The BBB of Central Indiana further encourages area businesses with incentives such as the BBB Ethics Award. This annual award is presented to companies showing excellence in business ethics.
Linda Carmody, president and CEO of the BBB of Central Indiana, says, “We encourage the many outstanding companies that work to uphold ethical business practices to submit an entry for this prestigious award.”
Entry for award consideration is available to any company meeting the following minimum criteria:
- The firm and its current principals must have a favorable track record at the BBB serving central Indiana.
- The business must be physically located within the 46-county service area of the BBB.
- The business must not exhibit any indications of not meeting their financial obligations.
According to Carmody, in addition to someone nominating a company she/he works for, owns or is affiliated with, an individual also may nominate a peer organization, a company the individual does business with and holds in high esteem.
Of the winners, Carmody says, “These companies set an example for businesses of all sizes to follow. We applaud their unique contributions to upholding a fair and ethical marketplace.”
She adds, “We find that BBB Ethics Award winners consistently meet very high standards in their relationships with customers, employees, vendors/suppliers, industry peers and the communities in which they do business.”
Ann Day, co-owner of Day Furs with her husband, Kevin, won the award in 2003. She says business is “a reciprocal type of relationship. If you treat (customers) fairly, they’re going to treat you fairly.”
Day says she and her husband live their lives and run their business according to the golden rule: Treat others as you would want to be treated yourself.
A philosophy of high integrity is the way to go, Day says.
Of the BBB, she says it provides a code of ethics to which businesses can adhere and “gives you that extra credibility.”
Day says, “Word of mouth is definitely our No. 1 form of marketing,” but, she adds, “this is a transient time.” If new people move into the area and don’t know about Day Furs, the BBB is an excellent resource for them to research the business, she says. A strong BBB rating can mean the difference between a search going no further and someone coming into the store for a closer look.
The bottom line: Understanding the importance of and adherence to strong business ethics will keep you in good stead in your career and in life.
As Day puts it, “If you can live your life by that golden rule, you’re going to have no problem adhering to the BBB guidelines.”
There’s still time to nominate your company or a company you do business with for this year’s Business Ethics Award. Log on www.indybbb.org for a nomination form.
This year’s award recipients will be announced on Nov. 15 at a luncheon at the Indiana Roof Ballroom. Veteran actor James Earl Jones is the keynote speaker.