Starting right: The ethics of your startup

Jared Kruger

03 Jun 2020

Reading time: 3 min Thought leadership articles

“Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

You don’t need to look too far to find news of corruption nowadays. But it’s not just happening at the state level – the private sector has its fair share of questionable activity too.

But it shouldn’t be like that! Entrepreneurs need to make sure that they bake business ethics into their operation from the get go.

What are ‘business ethics’? Simply, business ethics is the application of ethical values to business behaviour – think fairness, honesty, openness, integrity –  which is not to be confused with compliance. Compliance is the control mechanisms, like policies, procedures and rules, controlling business conduct. 

Ethics is about how an organisation does business, not what it does.

Does it treat its employees with dignity and respect?
Does it treat its customers fairly?
Does it pay its suppliers on time?
Is it open to dialogue with its local communities?
Does it acknowledge its responsibilities to wider society? 

Liezl Groenewald’s article entitled “Get the ethics right, and you will always be compliant”, published on 25 July 2017 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter, points out just how critical it is that companies examine their ethical culture. (This is a good newsletter to subscribe to!)

Reputations are based not only on a company’s delivery of their service or product, but how it values its relationships with employees, shareholders, the immediate community and the country as a whole.

Ethics play an essential role in setting the value system for the whole company, and in how this plays out through the behaviour and culture of the company at the individual and collective levels.

Entrepreneurs are influencers and therefore have great power in society. It is important that those starting businesses are intentional about their ethical responsibility as entrepreneurs. 

Professor Mills Soko, shortly after the Bell Pottinger fiasco, revealed to the public just how important a role business plays in a country’s stability in this interesting read.

As you grow your business, how are you going to make sure that it (you and all its employees) is committed to operating ethically?

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