An Interview with Be-Ethical

Be-Ethical, represented by Caroline, focuses on helping businesses become more ethically responsible within the ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) landscapes. Be-Ethical helps businesses align operations with ethical principles while involving employees at every level in the process.

Tell us about Be-Ethical?

Our business is all about the ESG and CSR landscape. It’s about helping businesses be more ethically responsible in their operations and very much about involving their employees in that journey. So, instead of being a tick-box exercise, it’s actually an engagement one.

How do you implement this?

Our offer involves examining a company’s current activities, helping it understand how it aligns with the ESG framework or a CSR program, and identifying gaps that can enhance its outcomes. We then set business goals and define reporting metrics, with the aim of achieving impact reporting after a 12-month period.

As businesses move through growth phases, they must become more conscious of their responsibilities and how they operate. The next generation of the workforce is far more ethically conscious and is making career choices based on these factors. Without a future workforce, you won’t have a business!

At Be Ethical, we are all about helping organisations get really clear about what they’re already doing, what they can do more of, and how they engage their employees in that journey.

Why do you think it’s important to enhance businesses social value and sustainability?

We’ve been in business for so long that we’ve seen companies completely change their culture because they’ve engaged their staff and given them a voice.

By engaging your staff and asking them to be part of the way you do business and contribute to society they help to embed your culture and live the values.

You can’t go out to a creative agency, create some values, put them on a wall and expect things to change. You’ve got to employees an understanding of why you’re in business, why they’re in that role in your organisation, and where that business is headed in the future.

We completely believe that everyone at every level needs to be informed about how a business is aiming to become more responsible. The people sitting in the boardroom don’t necessarily know what the people on the shop floor are doing. They won’t know what the people out on the roads are experiencing. It’s all about two-way communication.

Lots of organisations have people working for them who do great things in their communities. These people are involved in their children’s clubs and support local causes, but their company knows nothing about them, so it cannot support them.

An example of this is an organisation that offers volunteer hours to its employees, but they do it during work time as a team. But what about the people who can’t contribute fully to a community group due to their contracted hours, and that business then supports them leaving early each week? This improves that person’s desire to work for the business and positively promotes them as a great employer. So, it is really important to ask people what is important to them and build the programme around them. You’ll see your business completely change. And we’ve seen it happen many times. When you engage people, they take care of your business, they become more loyal, less wasteful and driven to encourage positive outcomes.

What have you found to be the most challenging part of this journey for Be-Ethical?

So many businesses don’t know where to start. They think they have to do everything in this space perfectly, so don’t do anything. We need millions of companies doing this imperfectly instead of not doing anything at all.

A good starting point is looking at what your competitors are doing and doing the same, but do it better! Go out and find out what sort of social activities companies are supporting and the environmental initiatives they are involved in, but importantly, find out what is important to your employees. Find out what sort of initiatives people want to see happen in the organisation around the environment. Let them lead on it, give them responsibility, make it part of their job role.

At Be Ethical, we help a business see the overarching picture of social and environmental responsibility and how it can benefit the business and society. We then help them get there, but we’re not the long-term answer. We want them to allocate a resource in that business to drive it forward. We don’t believe an external consultant can manage sustainability within a business. We offer coaching to those internally to support their outcomes.

What would you recommend to people starting this journey?

It helps to engage the staff in understanding what environmentally focused practices and social responsibility mean for their business.

An example would be a questionnaire:

What would you like to see change in the business?
What do you think we should do more of?
What do you think we should do less of
What should we start doing?
What should we stop doing?

These questions are very powerful and should be asked of everyone at all levels. Our sustainability training offers lots of information and asks questions like these as part of a survey, helping the leadership to understand what is important to the employees.

Often, communication between a business and its people may break down. On many occasions, a business has many social and environmental activities in place, but they are not clear to the staff. So, the survey can help to understand what needs to be relaunched and communicated more effectively.

I think sustainability needs to start with education first, and then it needs to be given ownership internally.

How do you put this into practice?

We have a Launch Pad process that involves training the leadership on sustainability, building a programme of activities, and engaging employees. We can then offer workforce training to identify sustainability champions to take activities forward.

We don’t believe we need to be involved for more than six months. It just doesn’t work. We want to give the leaders the understanding; we want to get the team of people together to empower them to go forward with their programme.

We do offer peer groups, where we bring people together for monthly calls to share best practices, offer ideas, and discuss challenges they’re facing. This really keeps the momentum going in that business.

One of the things we always say to business owners is don’t try to build programmes without making people accountable. Do this by making it part of their job role, not just an add-on, as it likely won’t get done.

Who are the companies that benefit from this the most?

The companies that work in the public sector and supply the NHS, those bidding for contracts. We help them clarify how they can effectively answer a bid and how to measure their performance and impacts for future reporting and contract opportunities.

We also work with those in construction and manufacturing, as social responsibility is a huge part of contract outcomes. They have to buy and recruit locally for those contracts, recruit fairly, train staff accordingly, and encourage career progression through apprenticeships. They also have to manage waste and reduce consumption as part of a contract. This all forms part of a contract’s social and environmental responsibility.

But really, every business should make sustainability a priority now before it becomes legislated and a business has to report on its activity and impacts in the future, just like it has to produce its accounts. Without your people on board, you will never achieve anything from a social and environmental perspective, so get ahead of the curve while there is time.

A huge thank you to Caroline for speaking with Katie Furmston.

If you would like to get in touch with our partnership team here at Design Conformity, please email