Is it time for business to take a step back and analyse whether they are putting profits ahead of integrity and ethical business practice? I think it is, but let me explain why.
In a challenging economy, which certainly is the case in South Africa at present, the hunt for the upper hand over competitors is on. But, a win at all costs approach may have certain short term benefits linked to revenue, but what long term cost does it have on your brand perception and reputation?
The decision to behave with integrity and ethically is a moral one, and is often influenced by company culture, and the company values. Too often though, companies get caught up in the race to realise revenue and forget to step back and ask, is this right? Ethics concern an individual’s moral judgements about right and wrong, and often, the right decision may involve rejecting a route that would lead to the biggest short-term profit.
If we look at the current business landscape, we see companies that are continually implicated in ethical issues for short term revenue gain in the form of unfair business practices, soliciting bribes, offering bribes, damage to the environment, tax evasion, animal cruelty, supporting cheaper manufacturing opportunities at the expense of local suppliers, underhanded tactics etc.
In business, as in life, there is a right way and a wrong way, no in-between, and businesses will benefit from looking at their operations with that filter.
Reputation is one of a company’s most important assets, and one of the most difficult to rebuild should it be lost. Unethical behaviour may damage a firm’s reputation and make it less appealing to stakeholders and customers and profits could fall as a result.
The businesses and brands that are connecting with consumers today, are connecting at a deeper level, an emotive level, they are transparent and true, those they operate ethically and are not driven by the bottom line only. We are faced with so may marketing messages, this authenticity from brands is refreshing and stands out, and what’s more it builds incredible long term brand loyalty. That old saying “They say in business, the nice guys always come last” no longer rings true, in fact, I would argue that today it is the opposite.
Step back, look at your business or the company you work for. Do you have a set of prescribed values and a purpose that you can believe in, and wake up every morning excited to work for it, knowing that in the challenge of pursuing this purpose, you can do so without compromising your principles? We have all been taught what’s right and wrong from a young age, the good from the bad, from an individual perspective, so why shouldn’t we take these principles into business?
Andrew MacKenzie is managing director of Boomtown.
Image: Wikimedia Creative Commons
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