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Taking steps towards a new ethical age of business



Unethical and exploitative behaviours may be understood in terms of short-term profit maximisation, but they now erode a business’ reputation, brand and licence to operate like never before. Michael Solomon, director of Profit Through Ethics, outlines a new era of ethical business.

Business is failing to balance its pursuit of profit with the interests of wider society and has lost public trust. In recent decades, business has increasingly shaped our world. And one dominant objective has shaped business: to generate as much profit as soon as possible.

In taking the fastest route to profit, businesses have offloaded costs onto society and the environment and taken advantage of consumers, employees, suppliers and others. Individual businesses which have sought a more ethical approach have risked ceding advantage to less scrupulous competitors. Self-serving, profit-above-all-else behaviours have become ingrained.

Our philosophy: the only way is ethics

Business has never been easy. Indeed, delivering the goods and services people need at prices they can afford is enormously challenging. However, this is not an excuse for exploiting people or planet.

Resources are finite, the environment is in peril, prosperity is faltering and the gap between the winners and the losers is widening. In our increasingly interconnected world, attitudes and expectations are changing.

Businesses that evade tax, violate human rights or clear rainforests are ever more visible and challengeable. While unethical and exploitative behaviours may be understood in terms of short-term profit maximisation, they now erode a business’ reputation, brand and licence to operate like never before.

To adapt, businesses must stop talking about being good corporate citizens or about being fair, responsible, sustainable or ethical. They must now unequivocally prove it. Those which fail to do so risk the permanent loss of public trust and the destruction of the very shareholder value they seek to protect.

Profit Through Ethics started in January 2011. Working with companies, NGOs and campaign groups – of all shapes and sizes – we have been able to develop a unique means to champion businesses striving to be as fair, open and responsible as possible.

Next steps

In collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders – including businesses large and small, as well as experts from dozens of NGOs and campaign groups – Profit Through Ethics has created a powerful new tool. It is for businesses that believe, by proving their commitment to responsible, sustainable behaviour across their organisations and by demonstrating a purpose to serve, both now and long into the future, they will achieve the greatest success.

We will unveil the new brand and website in the coming weeks. A formal launch is planned for April.

If you would like a preview of our new brand and website, please get in touch. Otherwise, watch this space.

Michael Solomon is director of Profit Through Ethics.

Further reading:

Merging the great business dilemma: profit v sustainability, responsibility and ethics

Businesses, listen up: ‘The best way to be good is to keep it simple’

Home-grown innovation that might just change the world

How to be good in the ruthless world of advertising

Michael Solomon is the director of Responsible 100. With a background in publishing, Michael hit upon the basic Responsible 100 concept when asked to launch a new CSR magazine and website. Troubled by the motives for large corporates to engage in CSR and the quality of their CSR outputs, he saw the need for an alternative approach which guaranteed credible information from businesses. Responsible 100 is a management tool, a business ranking, a public internet platform, an identification mark and a growing social movement. It includes leading businesses as well as NGO and campaign group partners.