Business Ethics: Why a business must be managed in line with high values


Why are we in business?
Many entrepreneurs would struggle to answer straight away. Maybe, after reflecting on it for some time, a few ideas will begin to flow

In my experience answers fall almost always in two categories:

  1. Positive affirmations: I am in this for the money, I like the lifestyle, I strive for success
  2. Negative affirmations: I don’t want to work for somebody else, I can’t stand the 9 to 5 Mon to Fri, I hate to be told what to do…

Rarely the answers are supported by strong altruistic values like: I want to provide my customer with the best product/ service/ experience, I want to create more jobs and support my community, I care about selling healthy food and create a sustainable business
But why is it important to have strong and positive values behind our Food Businesses? And what’s wrong with doing business based on the affirmations before?
It’s about Business Ethics. The moral principles that govern an entrepreneur’s behaviour when managing the company.

If the decision-making process is driven by profit only, any actions taken will impact the business in the long term

The problem with self-centred values in Business is that those values cannot be shared. Imagine a meeting where the manager tells the team “we need to increase our sales. I am not going to get a new car if we didn’t” Or a marketing campaign with the title “Our founder just bought a new house. Thanks to all our customers!”
If that sounds ridiculous it is only because I have put in plain words what some entrepreneurs or managers mean when sending messages to their customers and colleagues, yet they believe they can fake it. The hard truth is members of staff, customers but also investors and business partners can read between the lines. And even if they didn’t, it’s the decisions we take that makes it clear what our value are: A couple of examples:

  • Changing products formulations or recipe with the main goal to save costs.

Can you remember the last time a restaurant or retailer did that and what happened next?

  • Trying to save money by not maintaining company equipment (IT, warehouse tools…) and affect the staff ability to work efficiently.

Have you ever worked for a company where that was the norm? How did you feel?

Those impacted by our decisions will understand why such decisions are made. And, if they feel we did it moved by selfish values, they will not stay with us

Apply an ethical approach with solid value-driven vision and making sure decision-making process is consistently aligned

The solution to this is to adopt a Business set of principles based on the “others”. Our customers, members of staff, our community. Then implement a decision-making process that is aligned to the values.
Some of the most obvious benefits are:

  • Fast and easy decision-making:
  • If it is not aligned it must not be done
  • Better staff engagement:
  • If they share our values they will be more engaged, therefore more motivated.
  • Better customer engagement:
  • By sharing our values with our customers and running our business accordingly we will get a strong customer base of people who believe in our brand.
  • A better business reputation
  • Ultimately our business reputation will grow resulting is long term and sustainable growth

In conclusion...

All the solutions implemented helped the company to reduce waste. Yet no food company can expect to operate on a zero wastage. Therefore, in addition to work towards reducing wastage, food companies must be able to manage the waste

The most valuable tool food companies can use to manage waste is to have a budget. A waste budget.

Usually defined in terms of a percentage of the total inventory value to be measured weekly or monthly. By checking our real wastage figures against the budget, we can spot any problem or trend before it becomes an issue.
Again, the secret is measure it, so it can be managed.

Food companies should work more than others on adopting a positive set of ethics.
That’s because we face several ethical issues almost every day. Food waste, packaging, sourcing of ingredients.

I am not going to lecture anyone about good or bad ethics. But I urge any food entrepreneurs to define a set of values that can be shared with staff and customers. Then behave accordingly

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