The 5 Laws for Conducting Business Ethically


By Chris Martin

Every business tries to be successful. That usually means providing a quality product or service, creating efficient production processes, and taking in lots of revenue. But what does it mean for a business to be ethical?

It’s wise for all companies to have a written code of ethics by which employees must abide. But what are the concepts that should make up the foundation of these ethical codes? Here are five laws that represent what it means to conduct business ethically.

1. Maintain trust. Trust is a little like a patch of oil underground: once it’s gone, it takes a very long time for it to come back. So it’s vital that your company does all that it can to make sure that doesn’t happen. That means treating customers honestly, acting with integrity toward your employees, and keeping all of the promises you make to all of your stakeholders.

2. Be respectful. It is possible to be a successful business and be respectful of your competitors. But respect should be given to everyone at all times – from employees and suppliers to customers and peers. Respect is really an extension of the Golden Rule, so make it a point to practice compassion, empathy, tolerance, courtesy, and civility – or else it may come back to haunt you down the road when you find yourself in need of friends and supporters.

3. Be accountable. While you can delegate authority, you can never delegate responsibility. Accountability is more than just meeting all of your obligations to your customers, suppliers, and stakeholders. It means adopting accepted accounting practices, making contracts and corporate policies transparent, and apologizing for mistakes or misdeeds made by you or by your company in general.

4. Play fair. This advice is not just for the kindergarten playground. Obeying laws, rules, and regulations helps accomplish the three previously-stated laws involving trust, respect, and fairness. It also involves making decisions without prejudice or bias (like when choosing a new supplier), weighing all sides of an argument (like when colleagues have differing opinions on an issue), and treating all employees equally (like when conducting background checks on everyone versus focusing solely on suspicious individuals).

5. Be a good corporate citizen. The main aspect of this ethical maxim is to obey the spirit of the law rather than the letter. Do your part to protect the environment and fortify relationships with your neighbors, customers, and peers. Realize that you are a part of a community – and try to make it a better place.

Chris Martin is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites and is also a ghostwriter for several blogs. Martin has also written dozens of articles on business, finance, and entrepreneurism. In addition, he is an accomplished voice actor and an experienced sportscaster.