5.9. Build an ethical and responsible business

As you could observe from the Business Model Canvas, your business, thus your profit, constantly depends on your stakeholders: shareholders (if you share your business with other partners), customers, employees, suppliers, and other key partners from the community. In order to get their constant support, you need to treat them right, in a social responsible way. For that, you should develop your own code of conduct, deciding on basic values you and your company want to respect, but also on a set of principles that your business will run on. These code of conduct should include the basic aspects of corporate social responsibility, as defined by Wayne Visser (2011):

  • Value creation – a business should create added value, contributing to community’s growth and development;
  • Good governance – a business should be transparent in everything it does, reporting about its annual activities;
  • Environmental integrity – a business should aim at reducing waste and pollution to zero, and use renewable energy;
  • Societal contribution – a business should support the local community, by providing resources (financial and in-kind) for achieving development goals; it could invest in education, social, or environmental programs developed by local action groups or by nongovernmental organizations.

Moreover, a company should respect some general principles recommended by structures such as United Nations, or European Commission. For instance, the companies should respect and assume as their own principles the ten principles developed by the United Nations Global Compact, which focus on aspects, such as human rights, labour rights and principles, environment and anti-corruption measures. Thus a company should respect, promote, and protect human rights, and it has to make sure that its suppliers and partners also respect human rights (principles 1-2). Then, a company should eliminate, if it is the case, all forms of forced labour and child labour, and also any type of discrimination (this applies also for its suppliers or business partners), and the company should support the freedom of associations of its employees for collective bargaining or unions (principles 3-6). Moreover, a company should be more environmentally responsible, use environmentally friendly technologies, and be aware and precautionary about the environmental challenges it encounters (principles 7-9). Finally, any business should eliminate and work against any form of corruption (principle 10).

Developing and adopting a code of conduct helps your business to prosper while it is building and maintaining good and sustainable relations with your stakeholders. This type of ethical and responsible behavior helps your business on long term, gathering the support of the community, increasing the number of clients, raising profit for your shareholders, while creating added value for the society you operate in.