Business ethics and social responsibility

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Business ethics and social responsibility

Ethics comes from the Greek word ethos. It essentially means to be able to distinguish between right and wrong and then do the right thing. Ethical decisions are based on your conscience, principles or core beliefs. Many philosophers will say that ethics is the “science of conduct.”  Business leaders must follow the right behavior to benefit all constituents, including the community. Company reputation also needs to be protected. Businesses can benefit their community through social responsibility. Businesses must adhere to social norms and expectations, but this can be difficult during times of major change.

Doug Wallace and John Pekel state that ethics include the fundamental rules for how we run our lives and businesses. Ethics are critical in times of fundamental change. Values that were previously taken for granted are now being questioned. Some of these values are no longer being followed and it is difficult for business leaders to lead their organizations through complex dilemmas without any set moral compass. Good business leaders will question and scrutinize behavior to ensure good ethics occur in the workplace.

The question now becomes, “How do we bring ethics and social responsibility into our workplace?”.

Depending on the size of your company, you may consider starting an ethics management program that encompasses your mission, vision and values. The ethics program will teach your employees the values and policies your company believes in and follows. Human resources and legal departments are usually involved in drafting a code of ethics. However, senior management buy-in is the most important aspect, because of how the business works, it starts at the top.   

Many businesses aren’t large enough to have a full ethics program. Business owners and senior managers should understand the ethics of their business and share it with the employees. There are many business ethics classes, websites and networks to help you establish your business’s guiding principles. 


The business world embraced social responsibility in recent years. You will often hear this referred to as ESG–environment, social and governance. ESG incorporates sustainability into your company’s business model.

A recent study found  63 percent of people look favorably on a company practicing social and environmental change, whether it is required or not. Additionally, 78 percent want companies to address important social issues. The study also reports 87 percent of people will buy a product or service from a company that advocated for something they believed in and 76 percent would refuse to buy a product or service if they learned a company supported an issue contrary to their beliefs.

Society expects businesses to give back to their community and the environment. These practices can improve your company’s image and brand. They can also help your bottom line if you create processes to use less energy, production resources or packaging.

The environment is only one aspect of social responsibility. You should also consider the organizations you choose to support with your philanthropy. Consider giving employees paid time off to volunteer at organizations they find worthwhile. These measures will demonstrate your business’s commitment to social responsibility. 

Lastly, it is important to establish ethical labor practices. How you treat your employees tells as much about your business as almost anything you can do.

Moral, ethical and social responsibility expectations are very high in the world now. They will likely keep growing in importance as we begin to understand more about the science of how our world works. We know it can be difficult trying to determine and express your business ethics or show how your company is socially responsible.

We are here to help you develop strategies, programs and practices to help your company be socially responsible and help your bottom line. Outlook Business Solutions offers an array of marketing and sales services from strategy planning to copywriting and public relations. We’re here to help you grow your business and inspire your customers.