Our recently launched Business Ethics Toolkit has been developed to provide guidance to organisations who are interested in ethics, being more ethical or are looking for support to get started.

We caught up with two Tees Valley business leaders to get their thoughts on the process having completed the toolkit independently.

Emily Bentley is a director of Bentley’s Coffee Shop, a family run independent chain of coffee shops across the North East, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. They actively promote buy local at each of their sites, choosing to work with local suppliers and become part of the community in which they operate. Emily volunteers as a board member for Tees Valley Business Club and donates her time as a trustee to Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation, of which she is a Centurion donator. She has supported many local charities and appeared as a keynote speaker at multiple events across the region to share learnings from her business journey.

Sharon Starkey is managing director of Resolution a design, marketing and PR agency based in Stockton. The agency was built around an ethical culture and is driven from a desire to support organisations to get their message across, whilst providing local jobs in the creative industry. Alongside their client work, Resolution supports charities and start-ups by working on at least four projects a year free of charge and actively supports skills growth within their sector. Sharon is an associate on the Tees Valley Business Club board, a member of NIBE and a Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Infant Hercules Charity Club member.

Emily: “Each section starts with a really good video; this is helpful throughout the process but particularly helpful at the start where Phil Jackman gives an overview of the process. I would encourage everyone to watch this welcome as it clearly explains what to expect.”
Sharon: “As Phil says, Ethics is a complicated subject and what is ethical to me may be different to someone else. I found this explainer really helpful to allow me to understand why this is for me and how the toolkit could help us formalise what is embedded within our culture.”

Module One – What do you mean by business ethics?
Emily: “Working through this module allowed me to understand what I consider ethical, what is important to me and what is important to the rest of my team. It acted as a good prompt to get me thinking about and writing down what good business ethics means to our organisation. It also had me thinking about other businesses and how I perceive them based on the way they operate.”
Sharon: “This was an interesting exercise that had me writing down words to create a statement that reflected our organisation’s beliefs. There are things we do because they are important to us, some of those subconsciously, but it was good to get this on paper. The practical exercises helped me create a document to discuss with the team to cement these thoughts into practice.”

Module Two – What are other ethical companies doing?
Emily: “I really benefited from the results of the survey NIBE has distributed to other businesses, it allowed me to understand what they are doing, how our practices sit against others and ideas of other things we could be doing. It was clear every business takes a different approach but there are common components across the board.”
Sharon: “This module helped me compare our best practice with those of other organisations. Although each business considers ethics differently, it was helpful to gain an understanding of how we align. This module helped me shape what will be our policy and consider what our clients will be looking for from us as an organisation.”

Module Three – Measuring the measurable
Emily: “Measuring our ethical impact is always going to be a challenge. Trading ethically is important to us and we don’t do it for a return, however it is difficult to understand how this has a direct impact on the bottom line. Working through this module we realised we are not alone in this. Taking what I had produced from the previous modules, I have been able to review those elements that are measurable and understand some are not.”
Sharon: “I hadn’t previously considered recording the business impact of our values however this module allowed me to think about why this is important to our team and our clients. We have taken the time to consider why we operate to those ethical practices and what it is we want to achieve. Although we may choose not to promote this externally it is important to share it within the team.”

Module Four – Measuring the immeasurable
: “The way we react to a problem and deal with business challenges is based on our interpretation of ethics and as such will always be a result of our values. This module really made me think of those things we do because we want to but not necessarily based on business growth. These are the things that are difficult to measure but have an impact on how our customers and our team think of the organisation. It was really helpful to get some guidance on this and to include these elements in our plan.”
Sharon: “This module tackled what can be a difficult part of considering why trading ethically is important, these are the things that don’t have an impact on the bottom line but are as equally important to our business. It really got us thinking about our own inherent beliefs and how they impact our actions, why they were important and what they mean to us. I’m not sure we would have considered these points without the help of the toolkit.”

Module Five – Bringing it all together
Emily: “By the time I reached this module I felt I had a good understanding of our business ethics and why we choose to operate in the way we do. This final session allowed me to cement these thoughts and produce a tangible document to share with the team. Creating a policy and plan means we can better explain our position to our customers and our team. I fully expect this to change as our thoughts grow and our team expands.
Sharon: “Having completed this module I feel I have a greater understanding of our business ethics and been able to put this in writing rather than it being an unspoken understanding between team members. As a result of the guidance, we have managed to formalise what was thoughts and ideas which I wouldn’t have produced alone. I will regularly revisit the toolkit to update our policy.”

In conclusion
: The toolkit has allowed me to think about our own ethical position and formalise this into something the team can review. Instead of being individual ideas we now have a plan which we will review regularly. The way the toolkit is created allows the participant to add structure to what they are already doing whilst providing best practice from other organisations.
Sharon: “The toolkit is well structured, and I would encourage other business leaders to take part. It can be done at your own pace and provides well researched information that has helped us put down into policy things that are important to us. Ethics is a complicated subject, but this toolkit has simplified it whilst allowing me to feel comfortable talking about business ethics and how we include them in the way we trade.”