Your culture is the lifeblood of your business. In an environment where moral and ethical values are promoted and people are encouraged to think and feel more positively, employees and teams will thrive. This fosters better teamwork, better customer service and as a result, a better overall business performance.
A brand can tumble under a poorly managed and poorly considered culture. Yet at the heart of any sustainable business, you’ll find a well-balanced culture, reflected in its people and its values. When employees are attuned to the cultural, ethical and moral values of their company, they are more likely to demonstrate loyalty, and this extends to customers too.
Cultural benefits are said to be more appealing to the millennial generation in particular - with 9 out of 10 millennials claiming they would consider a pay cut to work at a company whose mission and values align with their own.
That said, promoting and running an ethically responsible business takes time, investment and planning. Let's take a look at some strategies that can help get you on your way to a more ethically sound business model.
Source and make your products ethically
If you create, make or sell products, do so ethically. This begins and ends with a trusted partnership with your supplier - someone with whom you have established an honest relationship; someone you can depend on to be transparent and ethical with every juncture of the their product development chain.
When partnering with unknown suppliers, it becomes more difficult to vet out the entire supply chain . For example, how can you be sure there is no possibility of modern slavery, the use of harmful materials or other non-ethical practices within your supply chain? A comprehensive understanding of each level of your supply chain with proof of ethical codes of conduct can help you achieve a more ethical product supply chain; one that concurs with your company values. This should also apply to packaging and selling too.
Act positively / do as you say and say as you do
40% of Gen X professionals would consider leaving their current job if their employer asked them to do something morally or ethically questionable. Accept that in your role as leader, you must live out your ethical values. This means demonstrating what you pledge - be that positivity, wellbeing or education. Good leaders lead by example. Promoting a positive and ethical business culture comes from displaying moral behaviour and championing others to do well. Behaviour breeds behaviour, and others will likely follow suit which will create higher standards for your team. Inspire those around you by sharing your thoughts and ideas.
Have a CSR policy and give back to the community
Most companies will claim to have a CSR policy to some extent. But whether or not this is executed with the intention of fostering a positive workplace culture and giving back to the local community is a different bag.
This type of action relies on an altruistic mindset. It could involve you and your employees leaving the office for the day to do a beach clean up for example, in which case, profits for that day may be significantly lower. But a CSR policy is about championing your local town, City or borough and investing in local suppliers and people.
This could also be anything from offering work experience placements to local students, team days out doing something to help the community, or supporting local charities through fundraising events. Social responsibility can be demonstrated by showing your values and passions extend beyond the bottom line. What can you and your business community do to give back?
Champion your employees' growth and development
Investing in employees - rather than bleeding them dry - is a sign of a company that does good. Do you value your employees? If so you'll prioritise employee retention which begins and ends with a robust development programme. Employees need to feel they are progressing and learning within their role. And of course, they need to feel rewarded and recognised for their output. Praise can go a long way, but what it's equally important to pay your employees their worth. If budgets are tight, are there other benefits that could compensate their hard work? Development programmes are a great place to start.
Stagnating and coasting along at work can cause people to feel under-challenged, de-motivated and begin looking elsewhere. Again, investing in your team showing them they’re valued.
Actions really do speak louder than words. What sets you apart from other businesses? How do you demonstrate your company's moral values, and do you promote a positive and ethical culture? Setting some time aside to delve a little deeper into what your business really values and what you want your culture to look like, both internally and externally, is the cornerstone of a sustainably business model.