We’ve all heard about Enron and how a lack of ethical business practices brought them crashing down. But if you’ve been in the business world for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve seen small businesses that employed unethical practices as well. I was involved in the mortgage/escrow business and the words ‘predatory lending’ are being batted about like a tennis ball. Just what is predatory lending? It covers a lot of ground, but in a nutshell it concerns a lender who uses deceptive ways to convince borrowers to take on a loan that they may not be able to afford. Like I said, there’s a lot more to it, but that gives you a basic idea. Ok, so you may not have dealt with anything like that, but how about getting breaks in the workplace. Sure, you know you’re supposed to get two 15 minute breaks and a half hour for lunch, but do you? Does your employer have plans set in place, do they make sure you can and do take them? Or are you the only one in the office and have to eat at your desk so that you can monitor the phones? They may not mean to be unethical, but not providing breaks to employees is a problem. Creative accounting, excessive compensation to CEO’s, discrimination and sexual harassment, these all fall under the unethical umbrella. When you truly look at the long list, chances are you will have encountered something listed there.
Enter Shel Horowitz, author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First. He has started a campaign for ethical business practices. It begins with a pledge:
I pledge allegiance, in my heart and soul, to the concepts of honesty, integrity, and quality in business. I recognize that the cornerstone of success is treating all stakeholders fairly, with compassion, and with a commitment to service. Working from abundance, I recognize that even my competitors can become important allies. I will not tolerate crooked practices in my business, from co-workers, direct or indirect reports, supervisors, managers, suppliers, or anyone else—and if I encounter such practices, I will refuse to go along with them and report them to appropriate authorities within and outside the company. I pledge to support the “triple bottom line” of environmental, social, and financial responsibility. And I pledge to participate in a serious effort to focus the business community on these principles, by sharing this message with at least 100 other business leaders.
Business people are encouraged to sign the pledge, abide by it and share it with other business people. The goal is to get 25,000 people to sign and live by the ethical standards in order to effect change within the business world, and thus change the way society thinks about business. It’s a noble idea. Once upon a time businesses followed these practices without a pledge. The unscrupulous businessmen were in the minority. Somewhere along the way profit became more important than remaining ethical. I believe it’s time for that to change. I’ve signed the pledge, how about you?