One of the most exciting aspects of ethics, for me, is its application as a business differentiator. This is one of the reasons that I joined the North East Initiative on Business Ethics. I want to see the region’s businesses thrive and see taking a positive ethical position as a way to make us stand out.
Of course the region is already strong in many ways. We are the only region that is currently a net exporter of goods, we have a positive balance of payments. We have expertise in many fields including advanced manufacturing, chemical processing, offshore renewables and public sector. We can do more though.
As global competition mounts and manufacturing can move around the globe we need something else that stops us competing only as a low wage economy. A strong ethical position can give us that competitive edge.
Why then would business want to aglomerate around this concept? Would it not make more sense for individual companies to keep this competitive advantage to themselves?
When I am looking to buy a carpet I tend to go to a retail park where there are lots of carpet shops. When I am looking for a present I tend to go to a shopping centre where there is a lot of choice. Businesses come together to make it easier for the consumer to get what they want.
Creating a region with strong business ethics will act in the same way. Consumers wanting to buy from ethical companies will be drawn into our region, encouraged by our ethical business park.
Values of fairness, honesty and transparency can be the golden thread that runs through all businesses. They can be the factors that set the North East ahead of its competitors.
This is what excites me about my involvement in the North East Initiative on Business Ethics.