Can Ethics and Big Business Sleep in the Same Bed?

When I think of big business, I think of oil companies and steel manufacturers. I think of companies like Enron. I think of the caricature of the Monopoly man amassing a great fortune without regard to the good of the people. Or the environment. Or the economy. I think of how much information Google has about me and what they could do with it if they felt nefarious.

Sure, there are big companies that do business and make a profit without harming others. Recently, I’ve seen some stories about big businesses that make me thing times are changing – or maybe they changed long ago, and I missed it. Now that we’re in the information age, it’s much harder for businesses to survive by using deceptive practices. Everyone has a smartphone capable of taking photos, video and voice recordings. Whistle-blowing is a few mouse-clicks and an email away.

Whether it’s cause or correlation, it seems like big business is shifting toward ethical and sustainable practices to get (and stay) ahead.

The Merits of Slow and Steady

The financial services company Ernst & Young doesn’t make too many waves on the news front. Most of their news in the past year has been about their CEO-elect, Mark Weinberger. When he’s ready to take the helm, the steady and qualified Weinberger will spent more than a year working with his predecessor. This is in stark contrast to the new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who was thrown into the lion’s den and forced to make some unpopular decisions in an effort to get the brand back on track. Why has business leader Weinberger been in the news? Because he won an award from the Anti-Defamation League. Even that news item wasn’t heavily reported. It seems that E&Y seeks to serve their clients, rather than put on a dog-and-pony show or own the prime time slots on the nightly news. So far, it’s serving them well.

Going Green

Have you ever heard of a Superfund site? It’s land that’s so toxic or damaged, the Environmental Protection Agency has essentially closed it to humanity until it can be remediated. Many of those sites are caused by careless industrial manufacturers. Visit epa.gov to learn more, but prepare to be outraged. Though it can be argued that early industrial manufacturers didn’t know they were damaging the environment, I’d wager they didn’t care to do much research, either.

In rather stark contrast, companies like Ikea are taking huge strides to be kinder to the earth and its inhabitants. They’re working to make their stores more energy efficient, harness solar power and stop using incandescent fixtures. They’re sourcing materials more ethically and working to increase the markets for Forest Stewardship Council-approved lumber.

Ikea is also publishing their goals and holding themselves publicly accountable for fulfilling them. They’ve recognized that the greater good and fiscal success don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and this is true critical thought leadership. To learn more about the Ikea initiatives, check out the video below.

About the Author:

Amanda Daniels loves to write captivating articles on finance and marketing. She lives in Chicago, where she studies economics. Go Bears!

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