Having a 'purpose beyond profit' and being values-driven has moved from the margins of commercial life to the mainstream.  The global recession and a gradual change in attitude means that the “just focus on the bottom line” way of doing business is increasingly being brought into question.  More people and businesses now see ethical considerations as fundamental to everything they do and how they source their services and products. 

Ethical businesses come in many different shapes and sizes.  It may be a business with environmental causes at its core, an organic producer or retailer, an education provider, social housing or a charity.  It may also be a larger commercial organisation steered by a strong corporate social responsibility policy.

It is sometimes a tall order to balance real commerciality with strong values.

Ramsay Paterson provides the Soil Association with specialist employment law advice. This is always clear and comprehensive and successfully recognises the unique challenges faced by organisations working within the ethical trade sector.

Hayley Lord, Group Human Resources Manager, the Soil Association  (soilassociation.org)

The challenges of HR in values-driven organisations

Being values-driven may be intrinsic to the brand or reputation of your business.  That brand risks being damaged by dealing with employees in a purely commercial way without considering the ethical implications. 

Many businesses have recently suffered bad press through employment practices which, though possibly legally compliant, appear unethical.

Values-driven businesses often attract employees who are incredibly passionate about a particular cause.  This can sometimes pose challenges for the day-to-day management of those employees – such a passionate approach may underpin strong views which may not always be shared within the business.

For businesses striving to operate ethically, the assumption may be that they must dot every “i” and cross every “t” and not tolerate any degree of risk in addressing HR challenges.  This may be particularly so where being ethical is intrinsic to the brand or reputation of your business.  An overly cautious approach may on the other hand threaten the commercial sustainability of the business.

How can we help?

Having strong values as an organisation does not have to mean avoiding any commercial risk.

We can help values-driven businesses manage such challenges and achieve that careful balance.  By looking beyond just the law and considering all the factors involved, we will support you in taking a commercial approach to your employment issues in a way which respects and reflects your business values and reputation.

Follow us on (@EthicalHR) for comment and insight into HR for ethical/values-driven business.  

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