business-ethics-in-business-officeWhile the words business ethicsare rather common in daily parlance, there’s some haziness as to what this pair of words actually means.

They definitely get thrown around a lot in these days of BP oil spills and constant corporate crackdowns, but what does it mean to be ethical in your business?

Ethics is the activity of man directed to secure the inner perfection of his own personality.
Albert Schweitzer

How can the average business owner be “ethical”?

And, in specific if she is the lone worker at a startup or a CEO of a Fortune 500?

Essentially, business ethics is generally defined as a specific moral code that businesses adopt when dealing with problems of an ethical nature.

Disasters caused by businesses.

To give a concrete example, take (yet another) look at the BP oil spill. An ethical problem came up as a result of the spill. It caused great harm to the environment of the Gulf Coast and destroyed many livelihoods, both of those connected to the oil company and those who were not. This is an ethical problem for BP – the actions of the company resulted in a terrible outcome. BP has been retooling its business ethics in the light of the oil spill: for example, they have openly redefined their dedication to environmental protection and poured billions of dollars into how to prevent such a spill from happening in the future.

Everyday business life.

While the British Petroleum situation is a large-scale definition of business ethics, you can be ethical in your every day business life, as well. This consists of simple things like turning off the lights when you leave an office space and treating your workers with dignity and respect. Are you mindful of where you order your stock from? Do you look to see if your products are produced from sweatshop labor? Do you have a well understood billing process – from within the company to outside?

It’s small steps like these that keep a business ethical.  Placing a “ethics rules” and introducing these business ethics values during employee on-boarding will be important.

Try not to look at ethics as something that is fundamentally hindering to your dealings as a business – ethical businesses tend to be happier, more productive places to work. It’s worth spending a few extra cents on the dollar to do so.

Perhaps it’s your turn to become part of the World’s Most Ethical Companies List – sometime in the near future?

…and you.

And – finally – what values and ethics were introduced to you as you were growing up? Did you lose it along the way – or is it still with you?


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Entrepreneur Magazine says Jon Rognerud is one of the most sought-after Digital Marketing Experts. His clients extend from high-end brands and middle-tier businesses in both B2B and B2C. His SEO website optimization book, "The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Website" from Entrepreneur Press is in bookstores now.