Can Business be Both Profitable and Ethical?

New research shows a link between company ethics and profitability

(Sanibel Island, FL) "I've been on both sides of the issue and have seen the results of doing right and doing wrong," says Dr. Jerry Fleming. Nearly every business and ministry professional is confronted with an ethical situation where doing what is expected conflicts with doing what is right.

In his book, Profit at Any Cost? Why Business Ethics Makes Sense (Baker Books), Fleming explains what went wrong in companies like Enron. He refers to the failures as just the tip of the iceberg. He blames the eventual downfall on a fundamental change in their value system.

Although he readily admits management needs all the edge it can get, he doesn't believe it is necessary to compromise integrity to be successful in the corporate world.

Fleming says, "Corporate life isn't easy. With competition breathing down your neck, the government trying to regulate you out of business, and unions portraying you as just below slum lords, it's hard to maintain your perspective and squeeze out a profit." While the very word, profit, has become a dirty word, it shouldn't be. Unfortunately some see profit as something negative. Yet Fleming observes, "Capital is the fuel that makes the industrial engine run."

In conducting a qualitative research project Fleming found that a company's ethics and their profitability were correlated. They condensed these into four major principles: Don't deceive, don't steal, don't covet, and treat others as you would want them to treat you. He refers to these as moral absolutes that apply to business. An ethical company has a clearly defined code of ethics. Yet, he cautions, "No organization is stronger than the character of its leadership, and a leader's character is no stronger than their core value system."

For Fleming, his research was able to correlate a company's ethics with their financial performance. The conclusion: "Being ethical is profitable." He believes the principles governing the business world and our private lives are no different from the laws of nature governing the physical world. He is quick to add, "I don't believe that doing the right thing will always lead directly to financial success, or that unethical behavior will always be disastrous." Nevertheless, over time, "This ethical stance will cause your organization to be more financially successful than you will be if you engage in a pattern of deceptive and selfish practices."

To schedule an interview with Dr. Jerry Fleming call Creative Resources @ 800/858-9388 ISBN 0-8010-1259-7 $17.99 (192 pages, hardcover)

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