In the current political climate, many of us have tried to give something back and live more ethically. That might involve reducing our carbon footprint, being more charitable, or simply speaking up when something isn't right. And it isn't just our personal lives that are being evaluated under an ethical microscope. It's our working lives too. This has caused many employees to ask themselves – do I work for an ethical business?
Ethical organizations can play a huge part in helping look after our planet and giving back to our local communities. But some more cynical CEOs might ask "what's in it for me?" Well, it turns out living ethically isn't just good for the environment, it's good for business. Research from the University of Notre Dame finds that ethical business operations are highly important to success, while unethical behavior can negatively impact a business's prospects.
Our article on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) covers three key areas where businesses can make a real impact – the environment, ethics and philanthropy. So, based on these, what exactly makes an ethical business?
Environmental CSR examines how businesses can reduce their carbon footprints while working. Whether organizations are looking to reduce their energy use or improve their recycling efforts, even simple acts like turning off lights and equipment in the office when they're not in use can make a big difference in protecting our planet.
Looking at the products that companies produce can also help them to reduce their environmental impact. They can reduce the amount of energy used in manufacturing, or switching to more environmentally friendly packaging. This can help with brand perception as well. Consumers are becoming a lot more socially conscious, and they'll be more inclined to purchase again from an environmentally conscious organization.
Organizations need to be wary, though. Although your brand perception can improve by making environmental improvements, many organizations have been accused of greenwashing. One report recently found that 59 percent of green claims made by fashion brands are misleading. Tricking consumers into believing that a product is environmentally friendly is a sure-fire way to lose customers. Businesses can avoid this by making sure they're developing genuine and authentic CSR initiatives that are aligned to their own values, vision and operational activities.
For more on corporate ethics and responsibility, read our article, Jenning's Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse.
Another good way to spot an ethical organization is to examine its corporate policies and what employee benefits they offer. Don't let the breakfast bars and ping-pong tables in the office fool you! A fun office doesn't mean your company will speak out against social injustices or treat its employees fairly.
An ethical business will provide an environment where employees feel safe from discrimination, and where their wellbeing is valued and looked after. If a company includes benefits such as flexible working hours and generous parental leave, that's usually a good sign that they're ethically sound.
It's also a good idea to look at what suppliers a company uses. They might claim to be ethical but it doesn't bode well if their suppliers aren't also ethically, environmentally and socially responsible.
Giving back is another great way that organizations can score some ethical brownie points. And there are so many ways that organizations can do some good! Does your company donate to local causes, arrange volunteering days, or run a charitable trust?
The problem is, it can sometimes be difficult for organizations to know where to focus their charitable efforts. Choose the right nonprofit or charity to support, to ensure that your contributions have as much impact as possible.
Do you work for an ethical organization? What other things can companies do to become more sociably responsible? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
If we're not pushed hard enough, we're unlikely to step out of our comfort zone; but if we're pushed too hard, we start to panic and feel overwhelmed. Instead, we need to aim for the "sweet spot" that is the Learning Zone.
As the world chimes in another new year and the holiday decorations head back to the attic, I like to take a moment to reflect on the past year. What have I achieved, and what lessons have I learned along the way?
"So, how much are you on now then?" The question took me by surprise. I'd never really discussed my salary before, and certainly not at work, surrounded by all my colleagues...