What is Ethical Business, Anyway?

I‘ve seen a lot of conversation here and there lately about what exactly ARE ethics and what IS ethical business, so I thought I’d talk about that a bit.

Ethics: moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity.

It’s important to understand that there is no true universal “collectively agreed upon” set of ethics, because ethics are rooted in morals and different individuals and cultures hold very different morals.

There are also different types and levels of ethics. Every person has their own set of ethics, which are effectively their personal moral code.

Most cultures have their own set of morals upon which their ethics rest as well. In America, we have a deeply Christian history so many of or notions of morals and ethics are rooted in those ideals. At the same time, we also have been heavily influenced by the European enlightenment era and its philosophies have also deeply informed our morals, so any sub groups that exist within our culture, be they social groups or more formal organizations, will typically have a set of ethics which are rooted in those moral principles.

Basically what I’m saying is: before any organization or industry can decide what they deem to be ethical, they must first agree upon their own moral principles (their ideas about what is right and wrong). Those moral principles will always be founded upon their cultural norms and values. So yeah, you can’t really determine what you deem ethical until you know your values.

Learn more about our individualist cultural values and how they may show up in the industry.

In formal organizations, all members of the group or else elected members of the group will meet, discuss, and lay out a code of ethical conduct. For example, a professional society within an industry may have a meeting of its members to devise and vote on an ethical code, and then that ethical code would be used by all members within the profession and even disseminated to non-members as a set of guidelines.
In a lot of professions, ethics were formulated at the onset of the industry and are taught in university as a foundational aspect of education. For example, I went to Journalism school and a journalism ethics course was a part of the curriculum.

Obviously the coaching industry cannot hold a meeting of individuals as it is not governed by any official body, so anything that is considered ethical in this industry will largely be dependent upon cultural norms, morals, and values. Currently the industry has no ethics because most of its business practices mirror that of the early days of online business get rich quick schemes. Ethics be damned.

This means that anything people online are teaching about “ethical business” are largely rooted in their own moral principles and that of their culture – and that’s why people are going to agree on a few things, but not all of the things. What is ethical to one person may not be to another. What is ethical to one culture may not be to another.It’s also important to recognize that because of this, what is ethical is not always what is just, just like what is lawful is not always what is just.

Ethics don’t exist in a vacuum. They have to be ethical according to something.

Anything that I teach as “ethical” is founded on a single moral principle: harm mitigation. How do we minimize harm wherever we see it? Harm to people, harm to the environment? The lens within which I view harm mitigation is through what is just. By “just” I mean an equalization of power, or at the very least, a conscious and responsible wielding of power.

In other words, I look at power dynamics and where they may create environments of harm and either lay out strategies to reduce or eliminate the power imbalance, or improve conscious awareness of that imbalance and reduce or eliminate harm that may arise from it.

This is ethics based on a human-first approach that centers the well-being of not just all parties involved in the dynamic, but society as a whole. That’s why we take into account anti-racism, ableism, feminism, anti-capitalism, etc. We’re looking at the ways these systems of oppression permeate business practices and how we can alleviate them.

How ableism shows up in spirituality
How patriarchy shows up in spirituality
How white supremacy shows up in spirituality

So anyway – there’s your crash course in ethics.

Xo,

Ash

 

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