Ethically dubious business? That’s no reason not to talk about your corporate values

Our series on how (not) to write your corporate values continues with some advice on how to make out you’re ethical when you’re in a morally dubious business.

Here’s a great example:

We believe in operating with integrity, trust and respect, both as individuals and as a family of companies.

We demonstrate a passion to succeed in all aspects of our businesses.

We believe in executing with quality by understanding and responding to our companies’ adult tobacco consumers’ preferences.

We believe in driving creativity into everything we do, resulting in innovation and continuous improvement for our companies’ adult tobacco consumers and our business processes.

We believe in sharing with others, unleashing the tremendous resources of our people as a force for good into the communities in which we live and work.


1. Be sure to include a couple of touchy-feely corporate clichés in there. Passion, integrity and family are a good start.

2. Give your legal department a hand in crafting your values. That way nobody will be in any doubt that your companies’ adult tobacco consumers are all fully consenting grown-ups who make a rational decision to benefit from your innovation, continuous improvement and understanding of their preferences.

3. Ignore the fact that, outside of the boardroom, most ordinary people can’t quite shake the negative overtones of the word “executing”. Particularly when you’re discussing adult tobacco consumers’ preferences.

4. Make your employees sound deranged (or slightly clumsy) by insisting they are always “driving creativity into everything we do”.

5. As with “executing”, don’t let the negative overtones of the rather alarming word “unleash” prevent you from incorporating it into your values. Rabid dogs, pent-up fury, torrents of swear words and dangerous weapons. All are fitting comparators for executives in the macho world of innovation and continuous improvement for adult tobacco consumers. Actually, they probably are.

2 comments so far . . . come and pitch in!

  1. Richard Owsley says:

    Aaaagh, these are really hard jobs to work on aren’t they, because clients actually want this twaddle rather than anyone talk common sense to them?

    I despair of this ubiquitous verb ‘to drive’. People generally use it because they’ve lost the ability to say what they really mean. And in this case it does sound rather like an accident waiting to happen doesn’t it?

    As for the murderous executing with quality – what’s wrong with believing in doing things well? Apart from it sounding trite. Which is why they would never use straightforward language.

    As for “unleashing the tremendous resources of our people as a force for good”, when you actually write or edit the CR reports for the companies which claim this sort of stuff, what they often mean in reality, is that someone in a remote office somewhere has done a sponsored run in aid of the hospice which cared for their mother – and you know they’d have done the same whoever they happened to work for.

  2. Clare Lynch says:

    Richard, your observations are spot on.

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