There has been much attention in recent years to the issue of ethical business practice. In many contexts, consumers are clearly saying that the integrity of a business and a brand’s social purpose are among the factors that influence purchase decisions.

Many businesses have also responded, recognising not only that ensuring the highest legal and moral standards contribute to the development of a company’s integrity and respect – but also because they realise that in many respects ethical business is good business. Many companies are also very committed to demonstrating clearly that they honour a responsibility to the communities and societies where they are based or allocate a percentage of profits made towards addressing social needs.

In this context a respect for human rights, a commitment to the fair treatment of workers, a respect for the environment and an intolerance of corruption can be a central part of a business strategy for growth and development. Recent studies indicate that there is now evidence that ethical business practices increase sales growth and profits, rather than representing a financial cost or a drain on company resources.

There are many excellent examples of companies that have successfully adopted a commitment to ethical business practice. Conversely we are all aware of the damaging effect that can ensue if there is evidence that a business is exploiting workers or does not honour laws governing pollution or destruction of the environment.

In recent years there have been some guidelines and conventions agreed internationally that can assist companies in adopting responsible and sustainable business practices and that are used as a deterrent to unethical practices. Ireland is a party to these and there is a requirement that the Government informs business about their content and oversees their implementation.

The United Nations Global Compact is a United Nations Initiative to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies and to report on their implementation. Find more here.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Tripartite Declaration of principles concerning multinational enterprises and social policy was developed in 2008 to assist in the regulation of the practice of multinational companies that have operations in the developing world. Find more here.

The OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, developed in 1997, establishes legally binding standards to criminalise bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions. It provides for a list of actions against companies/organisations found to be engaging in corrupt practices. Find more here.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were developed in 2011 and adopted by the United Nations system as the global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity. Find more here.

Some examples of companies’ commitment to ethical business practice include;