Your business, you created it with your own hands. She is part of you. She is a bit like your child and it is normal that you want to transmit your values to her. I would even say it's completely legitimate. So you do it in your everyday life, but you navigate a little on sight: you sometimes find it complicated to integrate ethics into your business, that it involves sacrifices, that you have less room for maneuver. You even sometimes doubt: are you not taking a path strewn with pitfalls? Are you not harming your business? Are you too idealistic to be entrepreneur ?
I wrote this article to reassure you. No ! You are right to embark on the path of ethical entrepreneurship. Your business is you: it must be like you. And then, ultimately, ethics pays off, I promise you. I'm going to show you that building a business with strong values is like guiding your child to become a good person. It's rewarding and it enriches everyone, you and society as a whole.
Why are ethics important in the business?
The challenges of responsible entrepreneurship
What if we started with a small definition of ethical business ? It is a company that establishes moral rules in the conduct of its business. If, for example, you offer massage services to your clients and you have made the choice to only use organic products for environmental reasons, you are already in an ethical process. Perhaps you also promote diversity and parity in your team. Etc. It is all part of a reasoned approach which is based on something other than simple profit. You are part of this generation of entrepreneurs who wonder how to reconcile economic growth, preservation of the environment and respect for people. You are not alone, rest assured! To those who wonder why we talk so much about ethics in business, I want to answer that responsible companies are the only solution to today's societal and environmental challenges.
Customers in search of ethics
Moreover, consumers have understood this well. And consumers are your customers. It is therefore in your best interest to listen to them, understand them and adapt to their concerns. These customers are like you. You want to build a business that matches your values. Customers want services and products that match their own values. There is a fundamental trend towards a more reasonable consumption. Among the criteria, we find a desire to:
- consume local and of focus on made in France, short courses, small producers and small artisans instead of choosing large international brands whose products and their components go around the world four times;
- buy healthier products and services, often from theorganic farming, respecting binding charters and having serious labels;
- supporting ethical entrepreneurship and inclusive businesses, which highlight mixed and parity, and at least provide decent working conditions for their employees.
According to one Harris Interactive study for Cetelem from May 2020, the French were 53 % to wish to consume less. Of course, this investigation must be placed in the particular context of the Covid 19 health crisis. However, many signs show a change in mentality that must be taken into account. So you are not a sweet dreamer or a sweet dreamer if you have chosen to emphasize ethics in your business. On the contrary, you see clearly in the future!
Restore trust with customers
Frenzied lobbying for the protection of pesticides; scandalous working conditions in the textile industry (including in Europe); suicides of employees at work ... We could make an endless list of scandals that have directly or indirectly affected very large companies. Even when they buy their products or services, consumers no longer have too much confidence in big brands. Small structures like yours have greater potential for credibility. You should therefore not doubt your ethical choices: they are relevant!
Have you noticed that adults always rave about kind, smiling, kind and respectful children of their peers? Just as you raise your child by giving him the best that you have in you, you must build a business in your image. Your prospects and customers will see your authenticity and appreciate your beautiful values. No one wants to buy from a clothing manufacturer that employs children in Bangladesh rather than from a French company that guarantees responsible production. If some consumers still buy from the first, it is because of the price. And the low price is not a qualitative selling point: it is the only argument that remains when you have nothing else to promote in your business.
So believe insocial, solidarity and environmental entrepreneurial ! Its advantages are real, I'll tell you about them right away.
The benefits of ethical entrepreneurship
The advantages of ethics in business? Cons, yes!
We just saw why it was necessary to promote ethics in the company. Now let's talk about the concrete benefits that this will bring to you, you as a business owner, because I am very keen to dispel your doubts on this subject.
At this point in your business, you may only see the downsides of your ethical positioning. You see the budget it takes and the time it takes you. Freeing yourself from all social, environmental and human constraints saves time and money in the short term, no doubt! Otherwise, everyone would go out of their way like you, wouldn't they?
I can imagine that sometimes you look at invoices from your local supplier, and / or organic, and / or fair trade, and think about the savings you would make if you did like everyone else and import from the other end of the planet cheaper and lower quality products ...
I will therefore use my analogy with the child being educated, because I find it decidedly very relevant. It takes patience, time and energy to grow your child with respect for oneself, for others and for the world. But what a reward, then!
The same goes for your business!
Ethics create value in the eyes of the customer
Like I was telling you, if it was so easy to build ethics into your business, everyone would. And it wouldn't be as valuable to customers anymore. Ethics are one of the elements that set you apart from your competitors in the eyes of your target customers. Think of these start-ups which promote their teams based on diversity and parity or these e-shops which have based their business model on made in France, organic products or artisanal cooperatives. A few examples of ethical companies who succeeded: Perus, Peauéthique, Bonjour Maurice, etc.
There are consumers who cannot find satisfaction in the market because they have ethical demands that are not shared by your competitors. What if you made a difference? What if you posed as an initiator? You may even be getting ahead of future legislation or anticipating what will be common consumption patterns tomorrow. Who knows ?
Ethics create enthusiasm in the company
If you want ethical entrepreneurship, it's because it meets a deep need that comes from you. It is obvious that we feel more fulfilled when we promote our values in our daily activity. You are going to be the first or the first to savor it (in any case, as soon as you have dispelled the doubts that assail you!).
You and your team, your collaborators and your employees: it is very motivating to work for more than good remuneration. It's inspiring to feel useful, tobring added value and of quality to the world. And to know that its suppliers and partners also benefit from your ethical choices. It's great to be the link in a virtuous circle.
An architectural firm that promotes renewable energies in its projects is moving forward with more conviction. A business start-up coach who helps clients achieve their lifelong dreams is immensely satisfied. 😉
According to a study by Harvard Business School 1, 180 American companies committed to a sustainable development policy had been much more profitable than their competitors. Why, if not because their teams felt carried by the enthusiasm of their approach?
Ethics help sell
If you are already engaged in an ethical entrepreneurial process, you surely feel a great conviction when you talk about your products and your services. You have nothing to hide, since everything is fair. So you speak with transparency and sincerity. And with passion. What more can you ask for from a salesperson?
It is one of benefits of business ethics : it makes you persuasive, in any case when the approach is sincere.
Otherwise, ethics is just a tool of communication without value. It is as if a parent is teaching their child good manners and having homophobic, sexist or racist comments in front of them in private. Not great, is it?
You are different, You believe in your ethical entrepreneurship. You believe what you say and that makes all the difference in your communication!
How to reconcile ethics and profitability?
Well, when you raise a child, you don't think about profitability. We do not say to ourselves that it is money and wasted time to teach him to respect the planet and others. Although, sometimes, one wonders if developing kindness in one's children might not risk making them prey in a world populated by sharks.
It's a bit the same for your business, once again. Theethical social entrepreneurship, it's great, but how do you apply it on a daily basis? How to reconcile growth and sustainable development, for example ? How to promote diversity? And how do you fit all this into the budget and generate a turnover that allows you to make a good living from your activity? Because you are not a philanthropic association: you manage a business and it is quite normal that this one makes you earn money!
Target the right customer segment
I have already spoken a little about it. It is capital of good define your target customer and your personas. Your positioning will not meet with everyone's support. Let's be honest, some people don't feel very concerned about climate change, the disappearance of bees, harassment at work, or employment conditions in certain industries in Southeast Asia. Too bad for them, you are not talking to them. Other people, on the contrary, are very vigilant and demanding and want to consume products and services in accordance with their values. Among these, some will be seduced by your speech. Identify them!
Integrate ethics into the business plan
Find responsible suppliers, hire aware employees, budget for additional costs, etc. : choose an ethical business model has requirements that must be foreseen upstream.
If you have decided to start a business training in aromatherapy and selling organic and local essential oils, you need to find specific partners. It is possible that your suppliers are more expensive than those at the neighboring pharmacy. It is also possible that, for some of your products, you have trouble finding suppliers at all! You will spend more time on this part of your ethical entrepreneurship creation. In addition, the financial charges assigned to this aspect of your business may be heavier.
It is therefore very useful to integrate these elements into your business plan. You must take into account your ethical requirements from the development phase of the project to avoid additional financial costs or having to rethink your entire internal organization afterwards.
You haven't? Do not panic ! A business plan is not only useful for starting a business, it also helps you see things more clearly during the development or restructuring phase. Nothing is lost as long as you have the will and the will.
Establish a corporate charter
Theethical commitment of companies is often formalized in a document. You can write a charter, a code of good conduct and / or a guide to good practices for yourself and all your staff and employees. Internally, these documents remind everyone of the company's ethical priorities. They are also useful when you are hiring. Ethics are part of the corporate culture. You can express your desire for diversity and parity and develop inclusive processes through these procedures.
You or your sales representatives can also use this charter or this guide to promote your brand image with partners and prospects.
And, precisely, since we are talking about communication ...
Communicate around your values
Maybe you find it pompous to communicate your values. And you don't dare. Get rid of your reservations: you are legitimate since you believe what you say.
Many brands and companies are talking about ethical communication. Some of them do not hesitate to make turns 180 ° compared to their past. The examples of ethical issues in large companies that the communicators try to patch up as many as they can (like Amazon, which has been accused of imposing extremely harsh working conditions on its employees).
That's not your situation.
You need to talk about yourself, your ethical entrepreneurship, and what matters to you in your communications, whether on press kits, social networks, the blog, newsletters and, of course, the page "Who am I?" "Or" Who are we? Of your website. Your future customers want to know you and know if they can trust you. Reassure them and convince them! (You are good at it, don't forget that!)
Stay focused on your business model
Don't forget yourself along the way. Your values are your strength, they are the heart of your business model. They give you legitimacy and authenticity. You are build your corporate identity. It can take a long time, just like raising a child… but it is very rewarding!
In the early years of a business, we have to deal with a lot of different issues and sometimes we lose sight of our deepest aspirations and values. Maybe you think that is not the most important thing now and that your ethical demands are more compelling than beneficial. I hope this long article onethically responsible entrepreneurship will have removed your doubts and convinced you that it is exactly the opposite and that you must think about it right away. It's part of your business model!
But you still have to know where you are going to make ethics a force for your business. Maybe this is where the problem lies for you? In this case, contact me for a first free phone interview. I could help you see it more clearly in your entrepreneurial strategy !
1 Eccles, RG, Ioannou, I., Serafeim, G., “The Impact of Corporate Sustainability on Organizational Processes and Performance”, Management Science, flight. 60, n ° 11, November 2014, p. 2835-2857