October 27, 2022

Responsible Business Concepts

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It’s sometimes hard to explain, as conscious business owners, what the whole conscious thing is about. Some people think we are non-profit or charitable organizations, others think that we can’t both do business & serve a bigger purpose. I find that having clear definitions & terms to communicate who we are, what we do & how we go about our mission is a great tool to get people to understand this road we are taking.

These are some relevant concepts that very often get confused or talked about as if they mean the same thing. In reality, they have subtle but important differences in what they are & the purpose they serve for conscious businesses.

Business Ethics

Defining business ethics has been compared to trying to nail jello to a wall; ethics in general are difficult to pin down.

Philip Lewis defined them in 1985 as the “Rules, standards, codes, or principles which provide guidelines for morally right behavior & truthfulness in specific situations”.

Business Ethics, Philip Lewis, 1985

Ultimately, business ethics are the codes & principles that define right & wrong in specific situations we face as business owners. We might abide by our own code of ethics, the ones established by our profession associations, or the ones we create together in our communities.

Sustainable Development

Sustainable development, on the other hand, is a goal for our businesses & challenges the idea that we need to be in constant growth & expansion.

“Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the abilities of future generations to meet their own needs” ]

Sustainable Development. United Nations Brundtland Commission, 1987

Aiming to be sustainable means doing things that fulfil the needs of people in our organization, our audiences & humanity today, without compromising any of them in the long term.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is about management, how we integrate our concerns for society & the planet into our operations.

“A management concept whereby companies integrate social & environmental concerns in their business operations & in their interactions with stakeholders”

Corporate Social Responsibility. Commission of the European Communities, 2001

The Triple Bottom Line 3BL

The Triple Bottom Line, also known as TBL or 3BL is a framework to understand & report the impact of our operations.

“A framework with three parts: social, environmental & economical. It’s the people, planet & profit approach to understanding & reporting the impact of a business.”

The Triple Bottom Line. John Elkington, 1994

It’s about accountability to the three elements a business is committed to: people, planet & profit.

Creating Shared Value

Finally, Creating Shared Value CSV is about the bigger picture, redefining business in general & reshaping capitalism.

“Redefining the purpose of a corporation as solving societal problems in a profitable way. It looks to reshape capitalism & starts from the premise that the health of a company & the communities it operates in, are interdependent.”

Creating Shared Value, Michael Porter, 2011

Did you know these definitions before? Is there one that catches your attention? Do you apply any in your business? Let me know in the comments!