The one sentence summary

It is possible to protect people, the planet and profits at the same time.


  • It is relatively easy to start a company from scratch with ethical principles, and one a few notable large corporations change their working methods because of an inspirational CEO who pioneers and pushes through the changes. But it is much harder for the middle ground businesses, and this book explains how they can start.
  • When it comes to the literature on the subject, it ranges from large, reasonably dry textbooks for academic courses, through to lighter, more idealistic books written at a high conceptual level. This book is aimed squarely at the middle ground – normal businesses who want to make a difference but don’t know where to start.
  • The Only Way Is Ethics. It really isn’t an option for businesses to ignore their ethical responsibilities any more. Those who do will go out of business, and many already have.
  • CSR has moved on. Corporate Social Responsibility is fine in its own right, but it only kicks in when a company generates surplus profits. True ethical businesses build these principles and benefits into their business model from the beginning.
  • If you’re going to change, change for good. Businesses need to do it properly, and they can do it on all fronts – from advertising, consumption, governance, and labour practices to ownership, production and values.
  • Everyone’s got to start somewhere. Some executives and entire businesses are paralyzed because they don’t know where to start. The advice here is to start somewhere – it’s all about progress, not total transformation if it’s too daunting or unrealistic at first.
  • What’s your Moral Purpose? Companies need to work to articulate this – a mixture of passion, vision, profession and vocation.
  • It’s all about the Triple Bottom Line. Moral purpose must include social and business integrity (for people), effective environmental and sustainability approaches (for the planet), joined to the business mission which will yield economic and commercial success (generating profit). The three things are not mutually exclusive.


  • Adopting a conscious culture. This means trusting employees, being authentic, caring, and transparent, showing integrity, and promoting a learning environment that empowers people. Many companies fail to achieve this. They write it down, but it’s not the working reality.
  • Could conscious consumerism be killing your business? Modern customers pay great attention to the companies they buy from. If they don’t like their working practices, or are suspicious of them, they will go elsewhere, or even actively ‘buycott’ those companies. So the days of fooling the customer are over.
  • Maturing millennials. As customers, 68% of US millennials want to be known for making a positive difference, 81% say a successful business needs a genuine purpose, 81% expect companies to declare their corporate citizenship openly, and 71% are willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings. As employees, 88% are more fulfilled when they can make a positive social impact, 78% want their values to match those of their employer, 76% bear this in mind when deciding where to work, 75% would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company, and 64% won’t take a job if an employer doesn’t have suitable practices. So irresponsible companies will lose both customers and employees.
  • Time to pay it forward? Who in the world would benefit most if they had access to your product or service for free? This question forms the basis of a progressive ethical policy.
  • BOGOFF reinvented. Buy one, give one free. How can you contribute based on your success?
  • Are you an ego- or eco-warrior? The motivation doesn’t matter – the net result is all the same to the environment.
  • Greenwashing won’t wash. 26% of companies have no evidence to back up their ethical claims. Under no circumstances pursue this route because you could be exposed immediately and create a self-inflicted PR disaster.
  • Too little, too triumphant, too late? Avoid marketing claims that fall into any of these three categories – they will most likely backfire.
  • Story doing and datatelling. Do some decent ethical things first, then tell your customers about it with evidence to prove it.


  • Nothing. This is an excellent primer on the topic and a highly practical handbook that anyone can use to get going on ethical matters in business.