10 Ethical Principles for Business Leaders – A New Year’s Resolution

In the book, we argue for a principled approach to modern business and organizational leadership based on age-old wisdom from our Judeo-Christian tradition. We show how Biblical commands can be applied to modern business questions if one 1. looks at the underlying economics of each issue, 2. compare it to equivalent examples from Biblical times and 3. translate the relevant old commands for today’s business environment.

Humanity has indeed known the difference between right and wrong for a long time. The hard part is making the right decision in the heat of the moment when powerful opposing forces like peer pressure, profit expectations and our own career ambitions may be pulling us in the wrong direction.

At the start of 2017, it may be useful for us to reflect on what exactly the ethical principles are that we want to follow in our daily business endeavors. I’ve distilled the 10 principles below from all the chapters in our book. These principles are intentionally formulated in secular terms so that they are shareable with an even wider audience. And they are all phrased as imperatives because a principle must make us do something.

  1. Have a higher corporate purpose than making profits – know whom you want to serve and what good you want to contribute to society
  2. Choose true leadership – lead with humility and integrity, and look past appearances for new leadership talent
  3. Treat employees well – do not make unreasonable demands of workers and give them a healthy work-life balance
  4. Exchange value fairly – charge fair prices, pay fair compensation and do not unduly shift your costs to others
  5. Serve the best interests of your customers – never sell harmful products/services or promote abusive consumption patterns
  6. Deceive or coerce no one – use only ethical persuasion techniques and don’t exploit your negotiating advantages against weaker parties
  7. Treat suppliers equitably – don’t abuse your buying power and only enter into mutually beneficial transactions
  8. Respect the environment – don’t burden society with your externalities and work towards a sustainable future for all
  9. Do right by anyone you may have harmed – offer full restitution when your products or operations have caused harm
  10. Show trust in people – be generous to all and create opportunities for everyone to thrive

Please feel free to comment or suggest any additions or refinements!


Posted by Peet van Biljon