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Ethics is the new black

People everywhere are rethinking the meaning of life and the role of work in contributing to that meaning. For many businesses, governments, community organizations and families, this has opened up opportunities to take stock; not just financially, but also in terms of their mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health.

What could this mean for businesses over the next year or two?

Society’s deep disillusionment with cynical, unethical, greedy and, let’s face it, downright dishonest practices in the financial and other sectors has forced many businesses to look within.

How can we navigate in an uncertain world unless we have a moral compass to guide us through complex and difficult decisions? Why are more businesses searching for their compass?

Because it’s becoming evident that ethical companies that go beyond legal compliance with tax and company law to become more socially and environmentally responsible are more profitable, too (see reference (1) below). Competitive businesses will be focusing on ethics to broaden their appeal to buyers and investors.

Sheer survival means businesses are competing intensely for the best and brightest staff. And those people are checking out potential employers very carefully. What they’re looking for is meaningful work – work that gives them professional satisfaction and is congruent with their personal values. They’re finding it in organizations that talk and walk social and environmental responsibility. A US survey of 100,000 people found 80-85% wanted to work for companies that were socially, ethically and environmentally responsible (2). Such employees will deliver 9% and higher productivity boosts for their firms (3). Responsible businesses will be recruiting the best to stay ahead of the rest.

More on all this in my keynote presentation, “The Productivity Paradox“.

This is the first in a series of blogs that will be updated while I’m away – and TOTALLY offline! – for the next five or six weeks. The content is adapted from some thoughts I put together for the wonderful Ann Andrews of The Corporate Toolbox for her free ebook, “What’s next? 29 Entrepreneurs share Predictions for 2011/12”. Many thanks to Ann for allowing me to reproduce some of that material here.

(1) The World’s Most Ethical Companies are designated on the basis of real and sustained ethical leadership within their industries, putting into real business practice the Ethisphere Institute’s credo of “Good. Smart. Business. Profit.” Find out more at http://ethisphere.com/wme2010/.
(2) Kelly Services. 2009. Ethical and Environmental Policies Serve as a Magnet in Attracting Employees According to Kelly Services Global Workplace Survey. October 28, 2009. Downloadable from http://ir.kellyservices.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=419388.
(3) Monahan, Tom. 2009. The role of business ethics in employee engagement. A 4 November 2009 article on the Ethisphere website downloadable from http://ethisphere.com/the-role-of-business-ethics-in-employee-engagement/.