On Business + Ethics, part 1


Pretty much every business resource I’ve come across pretty much always mentions the famed Seth Godin at some point or another. For good reason, he knows what’s up and delivers the message clearly, simply, and without guise. I saw his post Enough Ethics? on twitter last week, and clicked on it because the title confused me. I interpreted it as suggesting that there are TOO many ethics in business. Wait what?! Turns out, it was the opposite, phew. It’s really about the importance of being ethical rather than acting exclusively in service of what makes most financial sense. That’s definitely something I can get behind. Seth doesn’t really get into how, though, or even that “ethics” are a term rife with interpretation. Everyone’s personal code is going to vary so it’s a real slippery topic. Further complicating is how few businesses disclose their ethical practices, or display different ones behind closed doors and non-disclosure agreements. That is something I do not want to be associated with, so I’m writing this in the interest of fostering more transparency. This’ll be a series. Consider this part one. 😀

  1. 1 / Compensation
  2. Work will be accepted in exchange only for the most competitive wages possible, in equal trade of goods or services, or for class credit. No unpaid labor, internships or apprenticeships, and no nickel-and-diming people to drive down their rates, both of which contribute to the wage gap. Pay people what they ask for, by the due date requested. Some salary negotiation is acceptable at large businesses or places employing more than 10 or 15 people, but aggressive negotiation, or doing so with small businesses is a useless power play. No one needs that.

2 / Kaizen
Japanese concept that strives to make constant small improvements in the workplace and the self. As a work process, it is lean and geared for timely delivery without undue steps or stress on workers. In other words no busy work, overcomplicating, or 5-alarm deadlines.

3 / Privilege
Being aware of cultural appropriation. Work inspired by other cultures is possible if done in one’s own unique manner, in a respectful, educated way, with credit due to the original style or concept (see illustration above). Educating myself every day about how to be a better human. Working with a mix of non-profits and cultural organizations to actively engage with the world’s causes even in a behind-the-scenes way. Not crediting imagery or ripping off other’s work. Making sure there is a fair representation of people in the work product too, because representation matters. Treating my clients and staff with the same level of esteem, because our roles may be reversed some day. Being accessible to feedback so no one is afraid to give me the real talk. And then quick with a meaningful apology if I’m in the wrong and rapidly correcting course. There’s endless ways to check one’s privilege, so being on the look out constantly for new ways to do what I can to make sure people are being heard, seen, and respected in any context.


4 / Wabi Sabi
Because we’re human, having some flexibility and considering all accidental developments. It’s the pursuit of honest work while celebrating anti-perfectionism. Sometimes these chance occurrences can really breathe life into a piece, or alter the direction entirely. It can be hard to accept at times, so it requires open expectations. It also creates a culture where no one is shamed for their mistakes.


I’ve got a handful more of these ideals, many of which come from Japanese culture, but I’m dying to hear what you have to say on this subject too. Comment on your ethical requirements below, or send @pitchdesign on twitter. Better experiences await us all with more discussion on these things, so don’t hesitate to share. You can also email me directly if you prefer to share in a less public environment.

{Image credits: my own. Photo of Seth from here.}

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *