Our Approach

Ethics (an introduction)

How do we act?

Developed in parallel to the notion of Brand Leadership, the practice area of Ethics is the essential complement to the area of Experience. It is currently being developed and piloted in exclusive association with highly specialised and widely recognized external partners.

The content here is therefore the bedrock of what will come, and will be updated as advances are made. What you find here gives you an overview of the nature and the essential components of Ethics, and the confidence to outline it in conversations with clients.

For further, more in depth conversations, please always refer to either Chris Nurko or Manfredi Ricca.

The Components of Ethics

A critical aspect of Brand Leadership is to leverage integrity for sustained relevance and success, whether that is for attracting and retaining talent, earning customer loyalty and advocacy, fostering partnerships or exceeding shareholder and investor expectations.

At its simplest, Ethics consists of key components which when deployed by leadership effectively build integrity, mitigating risks that could damage a brand’s reputation, strength and value.

In conjunction with Experience, a brand’s ability to incorporate Ethics into leadership decision making and accountability reinforces the brand’s role as an act of leadership and an asset for business performance.

There are three essential components to the area of Ethics. They act in conjunction, and each is meant to drive integrity and consistency in a different way.

Values, Behaviours and EVP shape an organisation’s culture.

An Ethical Framework shapes leadership decision making.

A Code of Conduct drives compliance to laws, regulations and self imposed standards.

Each of these elements is developed through a specific process with a considerable involvement of the organisation itself. These processes are being built, refined and piloted at the time of this writing, and will be subsequently codified and shared.

Values, Behaviours and EVP

Behaviours are the ‘way things get done’ and the actions and interactions that are valued, encouraged and rewarded in performance. They are rooted in Values – the organisation’s deeply rooted principles.

An Employee Value Proposition, or EVP, is the system of support, recognition and values that an organisation provides to its employees in return for their experience, skills, performance and contribution. EVP and Behaviours drive integrity by shaping an organisation’s culture.

Ethical Leadership

An Ethical Framework is the means by which leadership can prioritise and synthesise data and information in order to make informed and consistent strategic decisions.

It drives ethical leadership by shaping decision making.

Code of Conduct

A Code of Conduct is the set of policies by which an organisation guides discretionary decisions and performance for employees, partnerships and stakeholder engagement, aligning them to laws, regulations and self imposed standards.

Values, Behaviours and EVP​

Definition

Behaviours are the ‘way things get done’ and the actions and interactions that are valued, encouraged and rewarded in performance.

Behaviours should be explicitly rooted in Values, which represent the deeply held principles’ behind behavioural expectations.

An Employee Value Proposition, or EVP, is the system of support, recognition and values that an organisation provides to its employees in return for their experience, skills, performance and contribution.

Values, Behaviours and the EVP drive integrity by shaping an organisation’s culture.

Overview

The notion of behaviours applies to employees individually and as a collective workforce and represents the values-in-action that define a brand’s internal and external perception.

Behaviours must take into account the Trajectory the brand must advance on, the Ambition it must achieve and the Purpose it must live, and should connect into the employee value proposition.

Behaviours should be specific enough to ensure that employee actions can be judged to align (or not) to them; but also sufficiently universal to be applicable across diverse contexts. They should drive hiring, compensation and exit decisions.

Behaviours are ‘values in action’ – they are meant to transform a deeply held belief into an expected behaviour. In the absence of clarity around the value a behaviour promotes, the behaviour is simply an instruction that may produce a very different culture than the desired one.

What makes a set of Behaviours strong?

They give leadership the confidence to be absent.

A paraphrasing on a book by HBS’s Frances Frei and Anne Morriss, this is a powerful indicator of strong Behaviours – they complement strategy in guiding discretionary decisions in leaders’ absence. For them to do so, four aspects are key.

They must originate from listening: strong behaviours are not abstract or generic imperatives; on the contrary, they ensure that the best employees work in an  environment where their values are aligned with their employers’.

They must set up people for success: they focus on those ways of doing things that are key to overcome the current challenges and making the shift. They align to the Trajectory the brand is on.

They must drive change: a strong set of Behaviours fills a void or corrects what isn’t working in a culture, starting from the best employees’ mindset. They should be directive enough to be articulated in high-impact organisational initiatives as well as everyday examples.

They must be grounded in meaningful values: behaviours should explicitly connect to a ‘why’ – deeper Values that the organisation holds dear. These Values should be meaningful and well articulated: avoid typical one-word platitudes like ’passion’, ‘integrity’ or ‘innovation’ (which isn’t a value) and, rather, look for what it really is that drives the organisation and makes it unique.

Ethical Framework

Definition

An Ethical Framework is a guiding framework that provides the foundation for leaders to make tough decisions when the right thing to do is not clear.

It drives ethical leadership through decision making, equipping leaders to translate the values and principles of the organization into real-life decisions on complex issues.

Overview

Ethics starts from the idea that we have responsibilities and duties to others. Delivering on these responsibilities is the foundation of the trust and reputation on which successful brands are built.

An ethical organisation is one that can consistently deliver on its responsibilities and promises – day in, day out – in everything it does. 

An Ethical Framework takes account of the organisation’s responsibilities to its stakeholders, including its customers, investors, and employees as well as to society. These broader responsibilities – often viewed through the lens of ESG – include environmental priorities and concerns; social impacts for people and communities; and the governance mechanisms that equip leaders to make good decisions on issues that are mission critical for a purpose-led brand.

An Ethical Framework enables leaders to make decisions with integrity, consistency, and transparency, building trust as they navigate the growing and shifting expectations of society, proactively addressing challenges that may jeopardize brand, trust, and reputation.

What makes a set of Behaviours strong?

What makes an Ethical Framework strong?

A strong Ethical Framework should be:

Principled: An Ethical Framework should provide a foundation for an organization to take a stand on what matters. It should be anchored in universally-recognized principles such as human rights, as well as the core values of the organization. Salesforce’s Guiding Principles for the Ethical Use of Technology are founded on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the company’s own core values of Trust, Customer Success, Equality, and Sustainability.

Distinctive: Many companies have lists of values that signal to employees what’s expected of them. But how useful are values such as ‘integrity’ or ‘collaboration’ in deliberating on tough decisions? An Ethical Framework must be built on distinctive values – such as Oxfam’s Feminist Principles – that provide specific guidance on the priorities of the organization.

Action-guiding: A strong Ethical Framework extrapolates from values and principles to give specific guidance on actions to take and avoid. HR software provider Modern Hire has adopted six AI Ethics Principles, each supported by practical implications for how its products are designed and implemented.

Inclusive: A strong Ethical Framework must be built through engagement, consultation, and inclusion, ensuring that decision making draws on a diversity of thought, perspective, and experience – as well as different ethical traditions and standpoints.

Code of Conduct

Definition

A code of conduct is a deliberate, intentional commitment that articulates, promotes and enforces specific rules that are relevant to a company’s unique culture and business.

It literally defines how to ‘conduct’ business aligned with the norms and standards relevant to an industry, profession and organisation’s unique set of experience principles.

Overview

The cornerstone of integrity is how an organisation defines the beliefs, actions and outcomes associated with governing behaviours and interactions between employees and/or customers.


The Code of Conduct, alongside other elements of governance structures, ensures compliance with what is obligatory by laws and regulations; while also mitigating risks associated with any aspects of discretionary decision making or non-compliance.

Aligned with Values, Behaviours and an Ethical Framework, a brand’s Code of Conduct connects the brand to the perceived integrity and consistency of how business gets done throughout the organisation.

A Code of Conduct embraces all aspects of a company including Human Resources, Legal, Sales & Marketing, R&D and Leadership in defining and articulating the content. A strong code of conduct will create a more powerful and resilient culture that supports a brand’s reputation and image with all stakeholders. It mitigates risks and identifies opportunities to instill both trust and integrity into a brand’s differentiation and competitive position.

What makes a set of Behaviours strong?

The most effective Code of Conduct connects a brand’s purpose, customer experience and internal culture through explicit and understood behaviours that connect with the intent to foster trust, integrity and accountability

A strong code of conduct reflects the nature of the business and the brand narrative that makes it relevant as a point of differentiation.

Consider the example of Coca-Cola. The Code of Conduct begins..

“Integrity – the Essential Ingredient: What makes Coca Cola one of the most admired brands in the world? It is not just our products. It is also how we do our work and the integrity of our actions. Ingrained in our culture, integrity inspires our work and strengthens our reputation as a Company that does extraordinary things and always does what is right. Integrity is the essential ingredient to our success”

A strong code of conduct is  explicit about the behaviors and actions that matter for an employee to do their job well. For example, for Amazon:

“In performing their job duties, Amazon.com employees should always act lawfully, ethically and in the best interests of Amazon.com”

A strong code of conduct helps to define and set expectation for how employees interact with each other, and promote the values the brand stands for. For Example, at AirBnB – an explicit policy states that ‘when two or more employees of AirBnB are together, irrespective of when or where, ‘work’ rules apply’. This focusses on the values of respect and nondiscrimination that apply to colleagues beyond the traditional ’office’ or 9 – 5 working hours.