I listen to a lot of radio as I drive between assignments, and two seemingly unrelated subjects caught my ear over the last week. The first story was about Consciencious Consumption and the second is the whole story about Scanlon and Abramoff and how they (allegedly) committed bribery to get their way.

So, to the first subject of Consciencious Consumption. If you haven't heard of it, the practice has to do with doing business with organizations that operate with a conscience. That is; they put "doing right" ahead of making a profit. The surprising part of the practice is that the companies that practice this ethical standard actually end up making significantly higher profits than the norm. Geez, do you think it's actually possible to do good and do well at the same time?

The second story you've already heard plenty about. Imagine someone taking a fee for a service, then kicking back part of that fee to the person responsible for getting the job done. OK, this case involves government officials and payoffs for getting certain bills passed, not simply coercing trading partners to pay exorbitant fees for questionable services. But somehow the two practices seem closely related in deed if not in fact.

A point in favor

The Consciencious Consumption story that I heard on National Public Radio talked about how people and companies were choosing to do business with companies that not only stated they were making business decisions based on moral values, but had proven they followed through on those commitments. To me, it is in the same vein as practicing conservation... it's often inconvenient, it sometimes costs more money, it's difficult to see any immediate benefit, but you know it's the right thing to do, even when nobody is looking.

In our business, Consciencious Consumption means doing business with companies that uphold values that support the greater good. Of course you know that I have the eC-BP Tenets in mind, but they certainly aren't the only values you might consider. And supporting them means doing business with companies that are like-minded and like-intentioned.

How do you know what companies share your values? For now, you'll just have to ask them. Eventually they will become members and you'll simply look at the list on eC-BP.org.

Doing wrong

The second story about greed and corruption came at just the moment I was thinking about how Consciencious Consumption fit our business. It reminded me how far it's possible to stray from the goals we set for ourselves. For sure, there's evil in the world, but I doubt Mr. Scanlon started out with evil intentions. My guess is he took smallish steps along the path until his greed overshadowed any of his good intentions.

It's easy to set a company goal to onboard all its trading partners in order to reduce operating expenses. That seems reasonable and responsible both financially and ethically. Forcing the issue and mandating that all trading partners adhere to the same level of service is likewise a responsible position. The line is crossed when the trading partners are taken advantage of for greed.

In the Scanlon case, money was taken from American Indian tribes for lobbying initiatives, but a significant portion of the money went to personal enrichment. That doesn't mean that the lobbyists don't deserve to make a living. The issue is that the tribes were overcharged. They could have received services they contracted for at a much reduced cost had their contributions not been sidetracked for personal gain. Is that kind of diversion happening in our industry?

I'm off to Texas next week. Maybe I'll see you there. Let me know how your conciencious consumption is coming along. Personally, I'm looking for an honest restauranteer who can sell me a great steak at a fair price.

Cheers!

Cecil

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