Purpose, values and principles are the bedrock of every thriving organisation. With many facing a reset right now, we’ve released a guide to help small to medium sized businesses create a road map for good decisions and robust culture.

In the world of architecture, even the most magnificent building is only as strong as its foundations. The same can be said for organisations. In these times of constant change, a strong ethical culture is essential to achieving superior, long-term performance – driving behaviour, innovation, and every decision from hiring, through to partnerships and customer service.

The foundations for a high-performance culture are made up of three principal components: Purpose, Values and Principles.

Each is necessary. Each plays a specific role. Each complements the other to make a stable foundation for the whole. Together, they make up what we call an Ethics Framework.

PURPOSE (WHY) – An organisation’s reason for being.

Purpose explains the WHY; it is the reason an organisation exists and what it was set up to do or achieve. It’s a defining expression of what your organisation stands for in the world and why it matters.

VALUES (WHAT) – What is good.

Values shape the WHAT; they are the things that an organisation believes are good and worth pursuing. Values guide actions, activities and behaviours within an organisations by identifying what is of merit.

PRINCIPLES (HOW) – What is right.

Principles determine the HOW; helping to guide how an organisation obtains the things it thinks are good. If Values tell an organisation what to pursue, Principles tell them how they should go about getting those things.

The Ethics Centre has spent the past thirty years helping organisations to build and strengthen their ethical foundations. In many cases, we have been able to work directly with organisations. However, not every organisation has either the time or the funds needed to invest in specialist advice.

So, the Centre was pleased to accept a grant from The Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s Community Benefit Fund for the purpose of creating a ‘DIY Guide’ for ethics frameworks – with a special focus on the needs of small to medium-sized businesses. It goes beyond broad theory to offer practical, step-by-step guidance to anyone wanting to define and apply their own Purpose, Values and Principles.

The publication of this guide comes at an especially important time. The current pandemic is testing organisations as never before.

Indeed, COVID-19 is every bit as dangerous as an earthquake – except, in this case, it is the ethical foundations of organisations that will determine whether they stand or fall. In a time of crisis, weak foundations are susceptible to crumble, opening up an organisation to the risk it will make ‘bad’ decisions that will ultimately cost it dearly.

The Ethics Centre believes that prevention is better than cure. Our hope is that the practical guidance offered by this guide will provide owners and managers with the tools they need to build stronger, better businesses.