Turning down business for ethics

A friend of mine works for a company that refuses business with clients who have low Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) scores, Corporate Environmental Responsibility (CER) Scores, or that operate in vice industries (tobacco, gambling, and firearms).

There is enough business to be had with clients with similar social values: they don’t need to take everything that walks in the door.

If great vendors won’t work with a company for social responsibility problems, then who will work with them? People who need the business.

Great vendors create strategic advantages for their clients – flexibility, scale, focus, and ability to execute. They can turn the tide in competitive markets.

Do vendors who need the business create the same leverage?

One of my former colleagues would only refer to his work in the tobacco industry only as Consumer Products Group experience. He said there was a stigma. Can low CSR affect future career options?

Over the years, I have walked away from business a handful of times when the individuals in the company treated me or my coworkers poorly or were simply toxic, but generally, I’m proud of my clients and what they do.

Have you ever turned down business over ethics?

One comment

  1. Yes. I once turned down a job designing an income/expense tracking tool when the requestor wanted the form to calculate in a way the IRS wouldn’t approve of. The requestor planned to teach this method to hundreds of other people and I certainly didn’t want the exposure or the liability. Refusing work is probably one of the hardest things freelancers have to do but it can make an incredibly powerful statement. Thanks for raising the issue.

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