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Ethical Business is Within Our Grasp

In the rowdy world of modern business, can profits and ethics mix?

It seems they can, if you ask the Ethical Enterprise Network, who recently launched an ethical charter for business. Andrew Donovan explores the growing appeal of ethical business and finds out what the charter has to offer.


"World Trend to Codes of Ethics" proclaimed a recent article in The Australian newspaper. Unfortunately , the article also reports that Australian companies are lagging behind in the international ethics stakes. This unhappy situation is likely to change, however, with the recent Melbourne launch of an ethical charter for business."

The growing interest in ethics - sparked in part by a backlash to the excesses of the 1980’s - has seen the emergence of several new business bodies in Australia. Three of the main players are the Melbourne-based Ethical Enterprise Network (EEN) and Epoch Foundation, and the St James Ethic Centre in Sydney.


Ethical Enterprise Network

The EEN is the first to launch a business charter for broad consumption. It hopes the charter will provide a practical guide to turn ethical ideals into tangible, effective action.

The EEN evolved from the Alternative Small Business Association, and was officially established in 1996.

Members of the Network come from all walks of business life, and share a belief that businesses must be responsible - socially and environmentally - to the society they are part of. In the 90’s, where people everywhere increasingly identify themselves as global citizens, businesses too need to place themselves within this larger, global context. "Think globally, act locally" is a phrase businesses need to take heed of with the fast approach of this next and most critical of centuries.

The Chair of the EEN, Ms Chris Johnston, is passionate in her belief in an ethical approach to business. "The Charter heralds a new era in business; one where businesses contribute to the wellbeing of the community, and where owners and managers reclaim their role of service in society."

The Charter consists of five principles: Equity and Justice; Respect; Sustaining the Environment; Creating and Sharing Sustainable Prosperity; and Responsibility. In particular, the Charter is good news for the environment, as it seeks to achieve change from within the heart of business, rather than through the enforcement of external rules and regulations. It states: "We will act with care towards the environment, protecting the biosphere and using its resources sustainably."

These, of course, are heady ideals - we have all seen this kind of language before, especially at international environment ‘talk-fests’. Action, we are well aware, is harder to come by. EEN seeks to bridge this gap by providing guidelines on how these ideals might look in a practical, busy workplace.

"[Consider] location and transport usage; equipment; plant and technologies; inputs - materials, energy, operating processes; products and by-products."

"For example, locate your business near your major service providers to minimise transport costs. Offer incentives to encourage employees to car pool or use public transport."

Ethical investment, life-cycle of products, creating markets for recycled materials, packaging, energy conservation and design considerations are also covered in the Charter’s guidelines.

Ethical business also means profitable business; for as citizens grow increasingly discontented with the spiraling culture of consumption, demand for ethical goods and services is likely to intensify.

The road to an ethical business world is littered with many obstacles. Fortunately, the EEN’s ethical enterprise Charter offers a very precise road map. And rest assured: the benefits reaped from adopting an ethical stance for your business are great. Apart from attracting a growing number of concerned citizens, a genuine ethical approach also creates a sense of well-being amongst employees; it encourages and supports personal needs to live a meaningful and positive life, both at work and at home. Naturally, the end result is a happier - and more productive - workplace: a gift of great importance to the well-being of both workers and your business.

Ethical business, then, is good for employees, good for proprietors and good for the bank balance. Most critically, it is good for our planet too.

The Ethical Enterprise Charter and guide (including an attractive A3 poster) costs $12 and can be obtained from the Ethical Enterprise Network on +61 03 9380 6933.


The Ethical Enterprise Charter

We publicly affirm our belief that enterprises are responsible for how they do business. We believe that enterprises can create enduring and worthwhile projects and services without exploiting the environment, other people or ourselves.

We believe that each enterprise has many stakeholders - owners and shareholders; employees; customers and clients; colleagues in other enterprises; suppliers; the community; and the environment. We acknowledge these interests.

We are committed to achieving ethical business practice. We support and will act on the following principles in our enterprises:

Equity and justice - We will act fairly, seeking to redress inequities and discrimination.

Respect - We will treat other people and the environment with respect.

Sustaining the environment - We will act with care towards the environment, protecting the biosphere and using its resources sustainably.

Creating and sharing sustainable prosperity - We will seek to create and share prosperity in a way that helps sustain our business, the community and the environment.

Responsibility - We will take all responsibility for our actions and for any harm or good we cause. We will account for our actions, evaluating our progress in implementing these principles.




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