Why Ethics Should Take on a Greater Role in Business Decision-Making
According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Culture Trends, 71 percent of employees said they would take a pay cut to work for a company whose values they share and 39% would quit if asked to do something unethical by their boss. Hallelujah! I’ve been waiting a long time to see millennials jump on the ethics bandwagon and it seems to be occurring.
Ivy Walker, writing for Forbes, states that “Now more than ever before, employees are indicating a strong preference for working for organizations they believe are ethical; organizations they believe they can trust.” She points out that according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, the U.S. is facing an unprecedented crisis of trust in institutions and employees are looking to their employers to fill the void.
Carol McCarthy, an entrepreneur, suggests that “ethical business goes beyond a company’s actions toward its clients” and includes ‘working with clients who demonstrate strong ethical practices themselves.’” She says her business has turned down multi-million dollar accounts that don’t match its moral compass. “We won’t help clients who we believe don’t have the right motives. This is important to our brand and to what we do.”
Creating an ethical workplace starts with ethical values: emphasize doing what is right not wrong; doing good things not harmful ones. Just imagine if companies such as Volkswagen and Wells Fargo followed ethical values that put people, client service, and honest dealings ahead of profits. Customers may not have been scammed into believing the products sold by these companies were done so with the public good in mind.
The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey reports the results of 10,455 millennials questioned across 36 countries. The survey shows millennials’ opinion of business motivation and ethics is at the lowest point in three years. About 20 percent said reputation for ethical behavior, diversity and inclusion, as well as workplace well-being were important when choosing an employer.
Millennials look for purpose in gravitating to a business. In the 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability report, 73 percent of millennials said they were willing to pay extra for more sustainable brands while 81 percent of millennials expected their preferred companies to make public declarations of corporate citizenship.
I have previously blogged about the disconnect between millennials and employers, noting that while pay is a concern, it shares the stage with other, more outward-centered objectives. The disconnect between employer goals and millennials’ expectations of employers is due to millennials’ commitment to purpose as well as profit.
This is nothing new. Most surveys have shown similar results. Still, employers lag in transitioning their objectives to include a purpose-driven mission. Of course, corporate social responsibility is still a priority for most employers, but the scope of that objective has not widened to include issues broadly thought of as “social enterprise.”
Social enterprise supports the notion of a “triple-bottom-line” organization – those simultaneously seeking profits, social impact, and environmental sustainability. Enterprises that tackle social impact and/or environmental sustainability issues are involved in causes such as free clinics for low-income communities, providing access to affordable prescription glasses to people in the developing world who are otherwise functionally blind, upcycling packaging and other non-recyclable consumer waste, providing access to water and providing reliable energy resources to those in the developing world.
Having taught millennials for many years, I am heartened by the results of recent surveys that show millennials really care about what business does, what motivates its actions, whether actions are ethical and trustworthy, and that a purpose-driven culture exists that puts benefitting society and other cultures front and center in their mission statement.