Working smarter

How humanity underpins business sustainability and profitability

In business, we often refer to our value proposition as a way of describing what the customer actually pays is less than the benefit they gain from our product or service. The other part of the equation is the ethics and values of our business that underpins those value propositions.

You would have seen the analogy of the ‘Three Legged Stool’ describing a business. Why three legs? Two legged stools don’t stand up, and four legged stools are hard to stabilise on uneven ground. 

The seat of corporate sustainability is supported:

  • On the left – by skills of running the business, compliance, reporting, finances, stakeholder management, and strategy.

  • In the middle – by product knowledge, production, trading, buying, selling, and expertise in what the business does best.

  • On the right – by mindset, customer and employee interaction, behavioural change, innovation, and family and relationships.

  • The connecting ring is vision, integrity, cultural change and commitment.

Ethics and values set a business apart

Take a look at the platform on which the stool sits. This foundation of ethics and values ‘grounds’ the business, in my opinion, and should be the basis for all decisions within the business.

Ethics and values can set a business apart from the competition and can underpin the market perception of your brand with long-term corporate sustainability efforts.

This is evident in the choice of manufacturing partners and product fit-for-purpose performance, pricing policy, delivering on promises, and above all having the customer as the focus of the business.

Recent discussion regarding a large social media platform, as well as the Royal Financial Services Commission revelations are cases in point. In the latter case, it appears that the ‘customer’ became a revenue target rather than being respected. In the former case, the realisation by some subscribers that they were, in fact, the product of the platform, came as a surprise. 

The examples are different. One, a case where checks and balances were not in place to support the marketed values, the other marketed social communication to the everyday user – yet was translucent on the underlying platform purpose (business model) – to sell profiled and targeted advertising. The use and misuse of the data for political purposes is another discussion entirely.

A simple definition of ethics

The basic concepts and fundamental principles of decent human conduct. 

How ethics and values are displayed in business

Ethics and values can be seen in business as:

  • Being your word – What is promised is delivered, on time and on budget.

  • Listening – keeping the customers’ needs forefront. Respect.

  • Ensuring the business is profitable and sustainable – supporting shareholders and families.

  • Having systems and processes that utilise resources, productively and efficiently.

  • Having checks and balances that promote transparency to customers, suppliers, stakeholders and employees alike.

Ethics and values in action

There are examples of corporate sustainability initiatives everywhere you look, and recently I came across a group of independent businesses that took these ideas to the next level. Individually, each business is capable and profitable. They have their own niche and expertise. As a group they are able to competitively tender for much larger projects – far beyond the capabilities of any individual. The synergy created is based on trust and having confidence that the other members will do their part of the project efficiently and professionally.

This group’s success is completely bound up in values and ethics. This is indicated by professionalism, trust, being true to your word, and listening. The outworking of these attributes begins with the owners and CEOs, and permeates through the individual organisations – providing a basis for cooperation, communication and critical thinking – and being recognised for exceptional performance.

From a practical sense then, embracing ethics and values within business can engender loyalty at the customer interface, support from stakeholders, and confidence from employees. This then can lead to sustainable, profitable, stable businesses – that have humanity at the core.

Rob Drage

Rob Drage

Principal Consultant, Rob Drage Consulting

Rob is a leadership and management consultant who understands how business behaviours and culture impact profitability. Rob offers a 1-hour free consultation to CEO’s and Directors who are interested in achieving sustainable personal and professional results.

Found this useful?

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive the best business tips and articles straight to your inbox.

Thank you for signing up to our newsletter. You're one step closer to receiving more insightful information to help better your business.

We take your privacy seriously and by subscribing to our newsletter you agree to the terms of our Privacy Policy available below.