Ethics: The new currency of business

Being ‘ethical’ has almost become a brand in itself and savvy businesses have been quick to market it into their products. But The Body Shop understood the value of socially responsible business long before the concept entered the commercial mainstream. Vision reports on the achievements of The Body Shop Foundation

In the global business arena, ‘ethical’ is the new buzzword. To regain consumers’ trust after the corporate and environmental scandals of the past decades, large companies have had to play up their green credentials and show they care.

A pioneer in the ethical business arena since it was created in 1976 by campaigner and entrepreneur Dame Anita Roddick, natural beauty products chain The Body Shop recently pledged £200,000 to help build five schools around the world. Through its foundation, the company has been supporting education for over two decades through its Community Fair Trade programme, which invests in the building of schools and provision of teaching materials.

To reaffirm its core values – Against Animal Testing, Community Fair Trade, Activate Self Esteem, Defend Human Rights and Protect The Planet – The Body Shop launched the ‘Beauty with Heart’ campaign last year, choosing Lily Cole as its first global brand ambassador.

“I have long been an advocate of the potential of using business and consumer power to cause positive change. The Body Shop takes a responsible attitude to people and the environment, and it feels amazing to be supporting a brand who are pioneers in that way of working,” the British model said. With Cole's tenure now at an end The Body Shop is looking into who will fly the flag next year for cruelty-free and socially responsible beauty products.

Many companies around the world increasingly use brand ambassadors who share their values and benefit from a positive image among the public. This is an efficient marketing tool to spread the good word about a brand, help launch a new product or target a different market. A strong brand can do wonders to increase a company’s profitability: think of Apple or Starbucks and the premium customers willingly or knowingly pay for their branded products due to their ‘cool’ factor to understand their importance.

Being ‘ethical’ – also known as corporate social responsibility (CSR) – is now becoming a increasingly popular business model in the corporate world, as it can also boost businesses’ coffers.

Ethisphere, an independent centre of research about ethical business, issues an annual ranking of the World’s Most Ethical (WME) Companies within each industry since 2007. Its WME Index has compared the performance of the public companies in its 2011 list to that of the S&P500 and found that the former outperformed the index between 2007-2011 – even in the midst of a global recession.

Which just goes to show that responsibility and accountability can rhyme with profitability.