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3 Examples of Hawaiian Culture in Business Ethics

Ethics are never a very clear-cut topic to navigate in any context, and we often look for different structures and teachings to help guide us along an ethical path. For many of us, Hawaiian culture and values provide a great framework for living ethically, or righteously.

Luckily, business ethics are a little bit more black-and-white, and it certainly doesn’t take an existential crisis to figure them out. That being said, we can still use Hawai’ian values to frame these business ethics in different ways and, in many cases, the ethics we follow are already examples of Hawai’ian values and culture in play. Here are a few that stand out!

Personal Responsibility

Whatever a particular company’s code of ethics might be, there is an understanding of personal responsibility for every employee and every team member to follow this code. By the hierarchical nature of many companies, employees lower down in the ranks will almost certainly adhere to this code since they have no power to leverage should any controversy arise. Those higher up in the ranks, however, might feel immune to consequences.

Just as with personal ethics, business ethics should apply equally to everybody in the business. In Hawaiian terms, we might look at this as Ha’aha’a, or humility. CEO and new hire alike, it takes humility to understand that an adherence to a code of ethics does not depend on power or position—it is everybody’s equal responsibility.

Corporate Responsibility

It is not only the employees’ responsibility to unilaterally adhere to company code, but it is also the company’s responsibility to unilaterally treat employees with the same level of respect. Failure to do so might result in a case of discrimination, a problem that is only new to popular discourse, but certainly not to the workplace.

You would think that avoiding discrimination is just about the easiest thing in the world, but implicit biases that we all carry can make it a non-trivial task for some of us. That being said, a strong first step is to practice living with aloha in the workplace, and throughout your life. More than just a greeting and term of parting, aloha is about relationships, and about how every single person deserves to be treated with love and respect, regardless of who they are.

Business Integrity

When it comes to commerce, it can often seem like marketing and, more precisely, conversion are the entire game. They certainly are some of the most important elements to any successful business, which can make it easy to try to convince customers to buy at just about any cost. That being said, as much as every brand wants to sell their product or service as the “best ever,” bending the truth might not exactly pay off.

Fraudulent advertising is a serious offense, and it doesn’t just run a brand the risk of expensive settlements, it could cost them their reputation and customer loyalty. Ho’ohanohano is the Hawai’ian value of integrity, and of portraying ourselves sincerely. This is an important value to follow in our personal lives in order to foster strong and healthy relationships. In our professional lives, it is also important for avoiding expensive consequences.

Viewed through the lens of Hawai’ian values, personal and business ethics don’t seem to deviate all that much from one another. In a way, it’s a testament to how the Hawai’ian values that help us live righteously in our own daily lives are easily extended into our professional lives. Is there a Hawaiian value in particular that helps you navigate business ethics?

Living Pono is dedicated to communicating business management concepts with Hawaiian values. Founded by Kevin May,  an established and successful leader and mentor, Living Pono is your destination to learn about how to live your life righteously and how that can have positive effects in your career. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or contact us here. Also, join our mailing list below, so you can be alerted when a new article is released.

Finally, consider following the Living Pono Podcast to listen to episodes about living righteously, business management concepts, and interviews with business leaders.

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