Being ethical does not guarantee business success. In 35 years as an ethics consultant, I have certainly seen companies disadvantaged by less ethical competitors. But I have also seen ethical companies succeed. Some succeed through sheer luck. But most succeed because they pursue a conscious strategy that incorporates their ethics. They make ethics part of the competitive advantage that enables them to succeed.
When I talk about pursuing a conscious strategy, I am not thinking of a formal strategic plan. I see few such plans in my consulting work and, when I do see one, it is not necessarily called upon when important decisions are made. But whether or not there is a formal plan, successful companies employ certain strategies to compete effectively. It is at the level of these competitive strategies that ethics can find a home.
I have identified five strategies common to companies that are successful and ethical on a sustained basis. None of these strategies considered in itself will guarantee ethical success. However, each of these strategies increases your chances of combined ethical and market success. I will be sharing these strategies in a series of posts over the next several weeks.