Why Good Ethics Are Now Big Business—And How To Embrace Them
Phil Lewis wonders if 2020 is the year purpose went mainstream, and looks at the experience of Johnny Pawlik, founder of Mantra Media,an ethics first branding and marketing firm.
As with greenwashing, that glow of ethical warmth all too often turns out to be a glossy veneer, beneath which lies the proverbial can of worms: the legacy systems that refuse to be cleaned up; the company culture that fails to match the honest-sounding words on its website; and, of course, the bottom line, which prioritises shareholders’ profits over good behaviour.
Yet, as the world’s businesses were forced to suddenly change gear at the start of the pandemic, the public’s gaze shifted from the shiny glamour of consumerism towards social and economic injustices laid bare by struggling economies.
And they were unforgiving. Those companies who treated their staff appallingly, sacking them without scruples and filching grants from governments, have been called out and castigated, though the long-term effects on their reputations are yet to be seen.
But taking an ethical stand isn’t as easy as it seems. Where the lines are drawn, how seemingly impossible ethical dilemmas are solved, and how to reconcile commerce and altruism are among the issues that arise for companies who decide to pursue “purpose” as part of their business.
So how should you go about navigating such choppy waters? One company that has some experience of this already is Mantra Media, a marketing agency whose founder Johnny Pawlik has been driven by purpose and ethics since launch.
Sounds like a no-brainer, but …there have been some difficult choices—including which clients are acceptable, and which marketing formats are ethical.
“I think ethics cascading through the business, through the teams and managers, is very much about cascading the culture, but a culture that everyone understands. It’s about hiring the right people. People who share our values,” he explains.
“And this wouldn’t work if you were just thinking about today or tomorrow as a business. But if you think about five years, or 10 years, or 50 years, the way Japanese businesses operate, looking after people, giving them a sense of purpose, making sure that the growth path of the business is also thinking about the growth path of the individual… If you really look after people, that intrinsic motivation will follow.”
Having sustained this approach through the pandemic, Pawlik is now seeing the rewards of the support and additional value he chose to offer clients.
“And that came back tenfold. People were so happy with how we’ve supported them, that when they got stronger legs, they came back to us and said, ‘You know what? You really helped us through that difficult time period. You didn’t need to, you didn’t ask for anything back. And now we want to reciprocate.’ It’s perfectly logical. Help people, and good things will come back.”
Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership’s programs include the 2 day Executive Ethics, 6 day Executive Colloquium and year-long Vincent Fairfax Fellowship. We also deliver online and face to face tailored corporate programs. Find the right program for you.