When you come right down to it, businesses have a responsibility to maximize profit for their investors and shareholders. Every decision and every action is based on boosting the bottom line before the competition steals market share.
Yes, I know that’s pretty cynical, and sure, a business can be known for doing the right thing – but it really isn’t the business that is doing so. In fact, the businesses we think of as ethical only became that way because of the people that work for that business.
Only people can have ethics.
Only people can take personal responsibility and go out of their way to help someone else.
Only people can try their hardest to accomplish something, instead of hiding behind rules, shrugging, and saying “I just work here.”
Only people can build your brand and boost your reputation by getting involved with the community.
Only people can make a decision to do the right thing, even though it might not benefit the company financially. (Okay, this decision might have to come from C-level or your Board, but believe it or not, they are people too.)
My point is, that every business is simply a combination of the people that work there. Without the personal choices between right and wrong that those people make every day, you have no business ethics. Without the effort that those people put forth, you have no reputation, no brand, and no future growth.
You see, it’s nothing business, it’s personal.
Thanks for the inspiration, Seth Godin.