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Doing Good Versus Being Good

Good Corporate Citizenship is an Ethical Value

The following guest blog is by Christopher Bauer. It addresses several issues relevant to ethics in the workplace.

There is much to be said for good corporate citizenship. The more companies that make clear and dedicated efforts to put their time and money into improving our world, the better. Who can argue against the benefits of programs to improve the environment, to support education and the arts, to develop and support programs for the needy, etc.  Each of these is a terrific way for organizations to do good things.

However, there are all-too-many organizations that promote wonderful programs in a manner that appears oddly detached from their real values. This can be as blatant as highly-polluting manufacturers loudly championing their efforts to create parks to something as subtle as an organization going out of its way to support local education initiatives while not providing funds to support the continuing education of its own employees. At best, these organizations' public good deeds are unaligned with their apparent actual values. In all too many instances, community contributions are really nothing more than a public relations effort aimed at looking like good corporate citizens when the reality is that they are no such thing.

Does any of this mean that these 'unaligned' good deeds are actually bad? Certainly not. They are still very much worthy of commendation and support. However, if they are done in the absence of well-promulgated, organization-wide values that persistently and clearly promote good citizenship, they ultimately represent momentarily 'doing good' as opposed to persistently 'being good'. Which would you prefer as a citizen and potential customer? Even if your answer is that you really don't care and that bottom-line numbers are all you're really interested in, 'being good' still wins. Here's how...

Take a look around your company. If the good citizenship seen by the outside world is not what employees also feel on the job, improving 'internal corporate citizenship' will build employee morale and, typically, productivity in turn. As long as they are coupled with sound management and leadership, both of these will then contribute to the bottom-line success of your organization through good times and bad. As importantly, be sure that good intentions of all advertised kinds (customer service, honesty, etc.) are really what the public will find when they deal with any employee there. This builds your brand as a company with whom customers will have a reliably positive experience.

Customers and potential customers will almost always appreciate your doing good things, particularly in the local community. Ultimately, though, they can't help but notice and appreciate when you are not just doing good but actually being good.

In addition to providing programs on professional ethics, Christopher Bauer also helps companies build their bottom line through the development of values-driven management, leadership, and customer service initiatives. Programs on writing high-impact values statements are also available. Program descriptions can be found here.

Follow Christopher Bauer on Twtter (@ethicstweet & @TheTrustFoundry). His blog can be found at The Trust Foundry.

Guest blog Blog posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on March 5, 2015. Professor Mintz is on the faculty of the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at: