“Ethical values provide the moral compass by which we live our lives and make decisions: ‘doing the right thing’ because it’s the right thing to do, not because of personal or financial gain. Organisations should focus on creating a shared ethical culture where businesses feel empowered to do the right thing rather than simply following a set of rules.” CIPD
Ethics in business is big money but there is a darker side to the ethics debate and one which is very real. From modern slavery to sexual abuse, the workplace has a lot to improve and with staggering statistics on modern slavery; in 2020 over 10,000 people were victims of modern slavery and that was through the height of the pandemic.
So how do you avoid the headlines hitting your business and what are the ethical issues which might impact you the most?
Ethics is a little like a piece of string, with no real end to where it can take us but there are some major issues that are tackled through employment policy, such as Anti Bribery, Modern Slavery, Sexual Abuse, National Minimal Wage and Discrimination. Employment laws deal with these issues clearly and concisely but if you are a small company who doesn’t employ anyone do they still apply to you? The short answer to this is yes.
Slavery is not just found in the home but in many areas of the business world where low paid labour can easily be hidden. Public bodies such as NHS staff have a duty to report suspected cases of slavery and it is thought that the most common type of exploitation for adults is labour exploitation. Potential victims from the UK, Albania and Vietnam were the three most common nationalities to be referred to the National Referral Mechanism and people can be victims of multiple exploitations. So whilst you are probably unaware of this issue, many fall victim and go unnoticed in our community.
Where you stand on other issues seen through the lens of employment may also vary depending on the size of your business but failure to apply the rules may mean that even for a small company, if you do not have good practices in place you will fall short of tender processes and consumer power.
Larger corporate organisations balance out their ethical position by creating Corporate Social Responsibility strategies. And whilst this may be beyond many smaller organisations you can still create an ethical strategy across everything you do and use that message in all your branding to really stand out from other companies. There are many ways to generate this ethical message, from which charities you support, to what you do for the environment but whatever you say you must carry through your supply chain to make it the most effective message it can be.
It is perhaps important to remember that wherever you stand on the ethics debate it is riddled with bias and therefore you cannot please everyone you are trying to reach but headlines and bad news about a company can really impact your position in today’s world of social media, so perhaps the rule that all news is good news is no longer as true as it once was and considering carefully your ethical position which you then reflect in all your interactions would be a stronger brand message.
For more support and help about ethics or to develop your own Corporate Social Responsibility strategy – or lets call it a Small Business Social Responsibility strategy for those smaller businesses – get in touch with any of the following services:
• HR consultants like Fresh Seed HR or others who operate outside the Creative Sector
• Your local Growth Hub
• Or do your own research…