Ethical entrepreneurship is the next big thing, and for good reason. More and more customers are voting with their dollars and supporting companies that genuinely live by the values they promote. You don’t have to be operating a vegan, fair-trade, organic coffee roastery to get in on the ethical action. Take the following five steps, and you’ll find yourself in a state of ethical-economic alignment:
1. Commit to your values
Most businesses have a set of core values that they espouse. It’s rare for them to be anything short of admirable. The thing is, these values must be more than just window dressing for your website. They need to inform every decision you make and every new process you implement in your business. From training staff to developing new product lines, a strong set of ethical values can act as a silent mentor, guiding your moves and helping you do the right thing.
2. Value people over profits
To some business owners, this will seem like an obvious statement. However, if we look at the state of the business world, it’s clear that it has to be repeated until it sinks in. Profits will always be central to business in a capitalist society. However, if you wish to run an ethical operation, paying a living wage to your employees must be a top priority. Even if you work with freelancers or contractors, it’s essential to ensure you’re valuing them by paying competitive rates.
To take this ethos a step further, it’s well worth your while to foster inclusion and diversity in the workplace by employing people from a range of different backgrounds. You may also wish to include social procurement in your business model. This involves spending your business dollars in a way that benefits the community. Some examples include hiring through a rehabilitation program that helps former prison inmates rebuild their lives or sourcing organic, fair-trade ingredients for your products.
3. Be transparent
Whether it’s with staff, customers, suppliers, investors, or stakeholders, transparency is essential at every level of business. Supply chain transparency is vital for you and your suppliers. When you have clear communication through every link in the chain, you’re far less likely to face ethical dilemmas. Meanwhile, honest communication is central to building trust with customers, and in today’s economy, trust is as valuable as currency.
4. Partner with like-minded businesses
Running an ethical business is about more than just managing what goes on within your own walls. By doing business with someone, you accept a level of responsibility for their practices. A fashion boutique may, for example, use a diverse range of models and treat staff impeccably. But if its garment supplier is guilty of human rights violations, the brand is indelibly attached to the ethical issues. This is why it’s essential to find suppliers and contractors that share your values and insist on the same transparency that you offer to your customers or clients.
5. Never stop learning
Ethical entrepreneurship isn’t a journey that comes with a final destination. There will always be something more you can do to have an even greater positive impact. That’s the beauty of the ethical economy. It demands that you keep an open mind and that you actively seek out opportunities to learn about social changes, new initiatives, and other ethical essentials.
Work these ideas into your business plan, and you’ll be a few steps closer to counting yourself among the new class of ethical entrepreneurs.