“We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Aristotle
Ethical trade is about considering the wider implications of your business above and beyond the economic objectives. It is about achieving a basic minimum standard of ethical behaviour within the business and your trading relationships.
Why worry about ethical trading?
- Your customers expect you to trade ethically, and may well base their purchasing decisions on it. They care about where products come from, who makes them and how staff are treated.
- Potential investors are likely to be ethically minded.
- Thinking ethically can diversify and open your business to new ideas and directions for growth.
- Trust and better relationships are fostered by transparency and openness.
- You encourage a loyal and motivated workforce by treating them fairly.
- Savings can be made by managing waste, recycling and reducing packaging.
- An unethical act by one employee, may well be viewed by customers and clients as representative of the entire business.
How do you create an ethical environment?
- Establish a code of conduct to address issues such as diversity, harassment, use of property, drug and alcohol use, privacy, confidentiality and fair treatment of staff.
- Lead by example. The smallest ethical transgression chips away at what you are preaching.
- Encourage your employees to buy in to the code of conduct. Set aside time in meetings to talk about relevant situations that your employees might experience.
How do you make sure your suppliers are ethical?
- Create a list of guidelines for everyone in your supply chain to ensure you are all observing best practice. Communication is key – identify where training is required and explain how you expect your suppliers to behave and what working conditions are acceptable.
- Check your suppliers’ credentials – do they have any ethical trading certification?
- Manage your waste – ask your suppliers to cut down on packaging where possible and/or find sustainable packaging.
Be socially responsible and consider your impact on:
- The Market. Consider how you promote yourselves to others, how you source your products and sell them.
- Your Workforce. Inspire their loyalty and motivation by paying a fair wage, providing good working conditions and equal opportunities.
- The Environment. Think about your environmental consumption. What can you do to minimize waste? How can you be more energy efficient? Are you using recyclable materials where possible?
- Your Local Community. Do you work with your local community and give back to it by helping out?
- Human Rights. A basic right for everyone, not just those working for you, but for your suppliers as well.
Lucinda Smith is a local copywriter providing services to local businesses, large and small