There’s no consensus for defining responsible business practices. The term, however, often refers to the practice of conducting business with consideration for ethical, environmental and community goals in addition to being a good employer and attempting to make a profit.

In the day-to-day operations of the company, responsible business practices could apply to several areas.

Firstly, it’s generally agreed upon that adherence to responsible business practices dictates healthy work conditions for employees. And while we’ve come a long way since the days of Upton Sinclair, there’s still a lot to be done for ensuring things like healthy indoor air.

In addition, the business should promote fairness and equality in employee relationships and show no tolerance for discrimination, bullying or harassment.

It probably goes without saying but environmental responsibility looms large in discussions of responsible business practices. Some companies will not do anything if it negatively impacts the environment. Others will attempt to strike a balance between earning profits and impacting the environment.

Contributing back to the community is another big topic in responsible business practices. These contributions can take the shape of financial donations from the company or by coordinating volunteer efforts among employees.

Influencing others is also key in responsible business practices. More specifically, this is the type of influence exerted on suppliers and customers to get them to improve their own sustainability and responsible business practices.

There’s also the notion of reducing risk around the workplace. These moves include minimizing the environmental, health and safety risks posed to employees and communities by opting for safe technologies, facilities and operating procedures.

Why use responsible business practices?

Companies employ responsible business practices for a variety of reasons.

Some believe it helps attract and retain employees. Others say it helps improve customer sales and loyalty. Also, it helps safeguard a company’s corporate reputation and strengthen its community relations.

On a more practical side, adopting environmentally responsible practices can help reduce energy and water consumption, and thereby reduce the cost of doing business.

How to incorporate responsible business practices?

There are several ways to integrate responsible business practices. Many companies write policies aimed at implementing the new practices. They also institute staff rewards for integrating responsible business practices.

Others join sustainability organizations where they can learn best practices and increase their company’s profile in the field. Along that same vein, many businesses seek certification programs in a bid to verify their sustainability efforts.

All told, the field is changing rapidly but there’s no doubt it is gaining momentum and drawing interest from many in the business community.