Ethics versus morals – an interesting philosophical issue, especially when it comes to business.
Morals are formal, written rules which describe “appropriate” behavior.
Ethics are moral principles that guide behavior. One term defines the other – how confusing!
Let’s break it down a bit.
A moral code is basically a law. Ethics are morals on a personal level.
OK, boring. Let’s talk about pet food.
Our moral code, as pet food manufacturers and retailers, is outlined in the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, the Food Safety Modernization Act, as well as our local and state laws.
On the other hand, our ethical code drives the quality of ingredients and products that we manufacture (stock, for retailers) – in the case of Next Gen PFMA members, the next step up. Some examples of our members’ higher ethical code include using human grade or USDA sourced ingredients, and keeping the food as close to its natural state as possible. These ethics may even cause some manufacturers to explore novel ingredients not standard in pet food – for the overall greater good. (Sadly, the moral code may prohibit such behavior until procedural rules allow for change of the moral code.)
What does this have to do with the current business environment?
When I started this post a few weeks ago, I was actually pretty pissed. One of our members had been reported to a regulatory official by a non-member. It was for a minor labeling issue that was easily fixed. But it really exemplified the difference between ethics and morals. Had the company who did the reporting been ethically based in their actions, they would either have directly spoken to the manufacturer with the labeling glitch or contacted this trade association. Instead, they relied on plain old morals and called the regulators.
Dog eat dog instead of running with the pack. Morals instead of ethics.
More recently, and on the flip side, I’ve been impressed by the ethical code of our members. While not all of our member manufacturers, would make the same move as Answers Pet Food (Lystn LLC), numerous of our members have indeed congratulated Answers and are evaluating whether to join their legal motion.
Because, ethically, we’re all in this together, no matter what kind of food we manufacturer. All real food is threatened. In my meeting with regulators on June 27, 2019, the regulators re-iterated to me that even high-pressure pasteurization is not validated. I can read the writing on the wall.
I suppose we have the option of acting like our competitors, or we can take it up a notch. Morals or ethics.
Because after all, we are making superior food; no matter what style of processing, our manufacturers use real food.
The next time you’re feeling frustrated about one of your supposed competitors, remember the competition. The real competition consists of the 98% of the market place who operate on moral codes alone.
Meanwhile, if you have a frustration over a colleague working a slightly different niche than your business, let me know. I will reach out and maintain your anonymity so that everyone benefits. Ethics versus morals.