Think Inc.
A forum for Hawaii's
business community to discuss
current events and issues.

Sunday, July 7, 2002



Can I buy a value?

Smart shoppers can support
companies that have integrity

By Cheryl Ann Crozier

Recent media coverage of corporate scandals, such as those involving Enron and Arthur Andersen, have led many people to conclude businesses have no values. This is not true. Every business must have a sound set of values in order to survive and thrive.

A company's values guide all of its behavior, not just decision-making or responsibility, and there are different values in organizations.

The values continuum

Values fall along a continuum. At one end, there are equity-based or objective values. These deal with stakeholders receiving from the organization what they put into it. Objective values deal exclusively with rational economic principles -- such as profit, jurisprudence and politics -- and may be identified by their win-lose outcomes.

The values at the other end of the continuum are subjective or egalitarian-based and are identified by their win-win outcomes. These values are concerned with giving individual stakeholders what they need for self-sufficiency regardless of the individual's level of contribution. Subjective values deal with corporate culture and traditions, including leadership style, production issues, and corporate structure. It is insufficient to state values in terms of objective or financial success. The organization must also have some subjective goals, in order to temper greed with compassion.

Pay attention

A company's values are manifested through its behavior. When a company indulges in unethical, uncaring, or illegal behavior, it is not because it has no values. These behaviors are a sign that the company's values are imbalanced; that is, that profits are viewed as more important than people, or that some people, such as executives and stockholders, are more highly valued than employees and customers.

Act on what you know

What can an average person do to let business know what is expected from them?

The answer is simple, yet difficult. First, each of us needs to identify our own values, our personal beliefs about what is right and what is wrong. Second, we need to identify what a company's values are, by examining their behavior.

Analyzing its advertising or marketing strategies is not enough. We also need to review its actions toward employees, stockholders, suppliers and the environment. Do these behaviors reflect our own personal values? If not, we can stop doing business with that company. Don't buy its products, its services or its stocks. Return its credit cards. Write letters or e-mails and voice your disagreement with its actions. And ask your friends and family to do the same.

If enough people do these simple things, the company's profitability will decrease. At the same time, frequent businesses whose values agree with your own, and tell those companies you respect their values. Tell your friends and family to patronize these companies too. If enough people do this, the caring company's profitability will rise, and they will become the big players in the market.

Cheryl Ann Crozier is an instructor of human resource management at Hawaii Pacific University. She can be reached at

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