business ethics

Milton Friedman, liberal economist, defended the theory of shareholder value in the 1970s. The company had moral obligations only towards the shareholders, owners of the company. You will agree, this approach is no longer tenable in 2020.

So-called « ethical » practices are today at the heart of the discourse of companies which must mobilize to meet the new expectations and requirements of consumers but also of investors and opinion leaders, whether in environmental, social or societal matters. .

Consumers are becoming increasingly demanding of companies:

  • Certainly they believe that the first responsibility of a company is respect for its customers (health / safety / satisfaction of its customers)
  • But they also expect organizational management that involves civic responsibility to facilitate better functioning of society.

As a result, the development of products and services is no longer the sole purpose of the company, which must become a “moral” and civic actor. This must opt ​​for an increasingly responsible and “citizen” position, that is to say:

  • Be transparent vis-à-vis all stakeholders (shareholders, employees, customers, communities, etc.), regardless of the part of the world where it operates;
  • Not having socially reprehensible practices (child labor, indecent working conditions and wages, unfair practices such as « bribes », corruption, etc.)
  • Do not have reprehensible environmental practices: pollution, waste management, waste,
  • Respect nature, promote local production and consumption and short circuits…

Integrating compliance with an ethics charter into one ‘s business strategy is becoming essential. This is all the more important now that breaches of ethics are quickly spotted, denounced and disseminated on a large scale by social networks and relayed by the media.

Sustainable development

Sustainable development is a mode of development that meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. (Bruntland Report 1987).

Corporate social responsibility or CSR refers to the voluntary consideration by companies of social and ethical issues in their activities.

It is therefore no longer a matter of answering only for the consequences of our past acts, but for those of the future. In other words, sustainable development postulates that we can and must be held responsible for the foreseeable consequences of the actions for which we are responsible (such as the reduction of polluting products in laundry or phytosanitary products in agriculture)

For companies and organizations, this entails a profound transformation of their economic model (from purchases to sales, including production and human resources management).

Today, taking into account the preservation of the environment and biodiversity is becoming, in particular, under pressure from public opinion and consumers, an imperative from which it is becoming increasingly difficult to escape.

Developing its economic model (or business model) to take this imperative into account becomes, on the contrary, an asset, an opportunity for the company. Some companies have also been created by integrating these imperatives from the start and making them their trademark and their reason.

Engaging in a sustainable development approach is now an essential and unavoidable dimension of a business strategy.

VSEs – SMEs in particular, just like start-ups, have every interest in integrating sustainable development into their economic model, even when the approach may seem a priori far removed from their activities and their core business. Their small size gives them a definite advantage. All companies, regardless of their size and sector of activity, can and must engage in a CSR approach

The large company with its normative, rigid structured organization has a low reactivity to change, it remains essentially reactive. On the other hand, with its lighter, more informal organization, the SME is better able to move towards a new economic model, to be more proactive in order to take advantage of new niche markets with an offer of socially responsible products or services.

Certainly, capitalizing on sustainable development can ensure the prosperity and sustainability of SMEs, but this requires the emergence of new behaviors as well as visionary business leaders capable of integrating sustainable development into their business strategy. It is for many a change of culture but which is essential

The company that wants to be successful cannot today do without a strategy based on an ethical and environmental approach.