Business ethics and corporate social responsibility

ethics photo: Business Ethics Projects businesethics_zps7f0ae343.jpgSometimes the simplest, most obvious choices are the ones we don't want to make. So we keep looking for alternate possibilities and generally focusing on what we think we want instead of what life serves up for us.

I should know. It happened to me. And often still does.

By now you probably know I practiced law for over 35 years. My perspective was as a small business owner providing a service to other individuals and small businesses. I pursued their claims, fought their battles, negotiated their transactions, provided perspective and insight, resolved their conflicts, steered them through problems, and planned their estates.

That all stopped in 2013 when an extended stay in ICU for pancreatitis and sepsis nearly took me out and left me with an even longer period of recovery. No more law. No more spiritual teaching. No more writing or speaking on peace or making a difference.

It was if the old me died off, and a new one was born.

I tried all those things back on for size, but none of them fit quite right. It was as if I was trying to pick one part of me over another, and I just couldn't do it.

Then again, before my illness I tried to do and be all of them, and I couldn't do that, either.

Let me bore you with the story.

Starting over

So here I was, trying to pick up the pieces of my life. Unable to go back to the old ways and having no inner nudge toward new ones, I was left to examine myself and my life. And perhaps most importantly, what I want for myself.

That led me to consider some of the choices of my life, particularly the one that led me into the law. It wasn't as if I wanted to go fight other people's battles. I wanted to go into business. It's just that the business that life served up was the practice of law. And through that, I got to experience many things, and gain insight into both people and this system under which we live.

From a business perspective, my spiritual teaching seemed out of character. After all, how does a lawyer get caught up in applied spirituality and the inner self?

It was a natural, though, for my alter ego. Decades of training in the martial arts, meditation and eastern philosophies eventually led me deeper within to explore my own self and its relationship to the reality that manifested for me to experience.

I took a sabbatical and wrote a book on listening to our inner voice. It was intended to offer a new view on religion and lay a trail that others could follow in their own spiritual practice.

That led me into my PeaceOptions efforts to help people find their peace, and MissionLaunch to empower those called to add some contribution to the world.

Then a string of illnesses took hold, culminating in the hospitalization. And I was left without them all. All those parts of me are still there. They just don't want to come out piecemeal any more. Wholeness is the order of the day.

Thus, the introspection about where I want to go with this part of my life. And that takes me back to the beginning, where my work life began to separate from the inner one that I worked so hard to understand and cultivate.

The Road Not Yet Followed

This is the easy road of which I spoke, the simple one staring me in the face all along. But I was too wrapped up in the dramas of the practice to see it at that time.

Many of those dramas got to me. Corruption. Manipulation. Abuse of power, money or circumstance. Lying. Starting or extending fights just to make or save a buck or two. Conducting themselves or their businesses in ways that said they didn't give a crap about anyone or anything but themselves.

But I also saw the good. People reaching out to help others in need, even when it meant sacrificing their time, energy and resources to do so. I felt the agony of hearts in pain, and the joy we both received when I could make it better. I connected with those in struggle or conflict so deeply as if it were my own. And I made close friends and met many good-hearted people along the way.

It is from this place that I want to speak about how we conduct our affairs and achieve a balance that not only feeds our families, but also feeds our souls.

How we go about our lives matters. For the beliefs, practices and perspectives by which we live and do business -- whether for ourselves or working for others -- shape how that future will unfold. End the end it all comes down to one thing -- bringing the best of what we are to the moment at hand in a way that not only will serve us, but also the world around us as well.

Sometimes, though, our best isn't very good. We can do better.

I guess you could call this approach business ethics. We certainly can have quite a conversation about ethics in business, and how we make the tough choices that arise each day.

But there's more to this equation than simply being ethical. For many consider themselves ethical who are so zealous in their pursuits that they are often blind to their impact on others or the greater society/world at large.

I call this social consciousness, a state of mind where we have awareness and concern for how we fit into the bigger picture.

Some don't care about their social impact. Others, though, are simply unaware of what they do, and therefore unable to choose another way. Still more are just conflicted over what to do and how to act, and fall back on the expedient way of building their bottom line.

So here's my question to you. Does the way you see yourself, your life, and your work affect the way you conduct yourself as you go through your day?

I suspect the answer is yes. You know it does. There's a direct connection between your inner and outer worlds, and when those are disconnected, nothing's going to seem right. Peace and happiness are elusive. As well as the presence of heart and mind to treat others the way you'd like to be treated.

If it's no, keep on going the way you are. It's obviously the path you're on, and the one meant for you. But one day maybe it won't bring the satisfaction you want it to. And when it doesn't, there won't be enough money to shut up that nagging voice that whispers inside that there's more -- only you just won't know what that more is, or how to find it.

Instead, you may find yourself left wanting, unfulfilled, unacknowledged or lacking contentment with what and how you do what you do. And soon after that cynical, burnt out or even rejecting the very business you now pursue.

It's all about the EXPERIENCE

That's the time to realize before it's too late that it's not just about WHAT you're doing, but more about HOW you're doing it. And then, using that awareness help to create the kind of life you want to live, and the kind of world you need to live in.

Why is this important? Because how we see and go through life determines the nature of the experience we get from it. Garbage in, garbage out is what they say in computer programming. It's the same with programming your life or business.

Business shouldn't be immune to thinking about that future. Granted, there will always be an eye on its overall success. But success has as much to do with the impact it has on others as it does with the bottom line.

Instead, it should be in the lead, showing the rest of society the way out of the mess, and changing the conversation from one of corporate greed to corporate inspiration and innovation for the good of all.

Nevertheless, this isn't about being a do-gooder. It's about making life, and business, work for you, and everyone else it impacts. We each have to find our own point of balance in life. Hopefully yours allows you to live a life that not only serves you, but also the world.

Life isn't just about work or business. But it makes up such a large part of our day and demands so much of our attention that it stands to reason that any effort to build a better life, much less a better world to live it in, starts there.

Perhaps one day we can speak some more on the subject. Until then, go with love.

God bless you indeed.

- john

* * * * *

image courtesy of Photobucket