Ethical Corporation and the anonymous poster on this blog…

The other day I posted a pretty forceful piece on my blog about sustainability ‘ranking’ systems for companies.

My tone, I admit, was quite harsh. After many years of seeing these indexes try, and fail, to do the impossible I am rather cynical about the reasons behind their creation.

Feedback on my posting was about 90% positive, from what I could tell on Twitter. (@tobiaswebb76)

Two people responded on the blog directly. One was the wonderful Elaine Cohen, who as always, had something constructive to say.

Elaine and I don’t agree on this issue, but I always enjoy debating with her.

The other poster, was, I think, somehow related to the companies I criticised in the blog posting.

I’m pretty sure I know who it was, but I think it’s best not to speculate here, not being 100% sure and all.

The anonymous poster attempted to ‘hit back’ after my comments.

Not, however, by taking me to task on what I said, but rather by accusing me of writing “sad words”.

The anonymous poster also claimed that “the word on the street is that Ethical Corporation has financial problems”.

The idea being, presumably, to, begin rumours of our imminent demise and shred customer confidence in our magazine, website, reports, other products and conferences.

I deleted the comment, (I do approve them on the blog, due to spammers polluting the blog if I do not) but it gave me pause for thought.

I could either pretend to the readers that it was not posted at all, by deleting it and not mentioning it, or I could face the “accusation” / attempted rumour-mongering head on, and address it.

The thinking behind the latter idea is that it’s best to be transparent.

That’s how we propose companies should act, in our magazine, on our website, in our reports and at our conferences.

So here it is. Some financial transparency. (I appreciate some readers may have fallen asleep by this point!)

Unfortunately for the anonymous poster we are set for our best financial year since 2007.

I won’t reveal our forecasted profits, but that’s only because forecasts are usually wrong, and I genuinely don’t know what the profits will be within a certain range.

It’s true that in 2008 and 2009 we posted a small loss each year. I will unhappily admit that.

Compared to our turnover, the losses were really quite small, but they were there nonetheless.

In 2008 it was due to the savage market conditions that for us, kicked in around late summer.

In 2009 it was mainly because we didn’t make a big round of redundancies when we might have done, because we preferred to put faith in our people, in spite of the market.

It was a gamble that proved to be financially, but not morally, wrong, and as result we posted another small loss for the year overall, despite an excellent second half.

I’d be the first to admit I am awful at laying people off and preferred to take a small financial hit for the year, paid for from 2007 profits, than do what most other people in charge of small businesses probably would have done, i.e. layoffs.

I’m not saying it was a smart business move from a short term financial perspective.

But it felt right, and we could, just, afford it.

As a result we are still friends with the employees that left over time, and we kept hold of some key colleagues who, I hope, felt we acted ethically.

One person was made redundant, which they were pleased about, since they had been about to leave for another city and get married. The redundancy meant an extra month’s money for them.

So, anonymous poster, your comment has had it’s airtime. And I feel suitably transparent. So thanks for the reminder.

Unfortunately for you and your wishes, this year could well be a record year for Ethical Corporation in terms of finances.

And our leaner, more efficient team is set to expand agressively into 2011.

Perhaps next time you’ll have the courage to put your name to your remarks. Or even debate issues of substance.

(I’m aware all this sounds a bit defensive, but it’s all true, and genuinely written. I guess I thought it was an opportunity to point out that we can ‘walk the talk’ on transparency, whilst taking a pop at the anonymous poster!)

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