Sustainability is a societal goal that broadly aims for humans to safely coexist on earth without making choices that harm future generations. Sustainability cuts across all sectors and it’s a big discourse in the corporate world. Questions regarding a firm’s ethical responsibility towards attaining sustainability are frequently asked. Sustainability is described with 3P’s – people, planet and profit. Companies are expected to make decisions that put these three Ps into consideration without one hindering the other. In adhering to these 3Ps, a firm observes their ethical responsibilities to society.
These responsibilities are usually explained with two guiding principles: a firm must not inflict directly willed harm on a human being and they must not choose courses of action which have disproportionate side effects. The first principle guides the sanctity of all human lives and how it’s more superior than any business decision. No human life must be harmed in decisions. This rule is very important as businesses tend to undervalue the sanctity of human life or view it as a commodity. This wrong perception makes them harm human lives and describe it as a mere collateral damage. This inhumane practice goes against ethical principles and must be kicked against.
The second principle weighs the firm’s choices when making a decision. They must consider proportionate side effects. This is in a situation where side effects are inevitable. Ethical principles still prefer that the firm must not lash out disproportionate side effects to unconsenting victims. For example, if a construction firm that’s building a road, it’s only fair that all parts of the road are not blocked at a time to allow for movement. Though slow movement is a negative effect, it’s still proportional to the total block of the road.
There are certain ways through which firms promote ethical principles so they can lead to sustainability. A popular one is philanthropy. When organisations participate in philanthropic activities, they reiterate their commitment to being an ethical actor while buying the trust of the society. Philanthropy can go from sponsoring children’s education to poverty alleviation programs and so on. Similar to this is promoting volunteering. A firm that actively volunteers for social activities is usually an ethically standard organisation. Volunteering connotes a connection from the volunteer to the course being volunteered for. Volunteering to host social events that aim at bringing the society together is a good example.
Also, ethical labour practices are a great ethical way of promoting sustainability. A firm that treats labour justly and fairly is regarded as being ethical. Part of observing ethical labour practices is paying fair wages and salaries, promoting respect and ethical values among staff members, managing staff conflict and resolutions justly and leaving no room for exploitation. These practices trickle down to how labour perform their duties happily and conduct themselves respectfully in the community.
Additionally, a firm reinforces their ethical commitments to sustainability by making decisions that are environmentally friendly. So, when faced with choices, the impact of whichever one they choose must have minimal effects on society. So, issues like waste disposal, water consumption, fuel and carbon emissions, energy use and so on must be interrogated to adhere to global environmental standards.
This is crucial because the effects of not considering the environmental impacts have a direct effect on people. In attaining sustainability, however, people and the environment must be in the center of our discourse. So, when firms pay attention to their social responsibilities, they stand by the binding principles and become a sustainable business.