I’ve been thinking a lot about values recently.

We all have them. Everyone these days is talking about them. Company websites have pages full of them.

They are at the heart of everything we do. As an individual that’s easy to understand, but what about for a company?

Most corporate websites would have you believe they are all paragons of virtue. Devoted to their staff, their customers, their suppliers, protecting the environment. Devoted to anything except their number one aim – to make money.

This is fine until there is a conflict between values and making money.

The sad truth is that most companies put profit before values every time. Every corporate “values” page should come with the disclaimer – “these are the values we follow once we are sure our profit targets have been achieved”.

There are notable exceptions. Companies widely lauded as values-lead such Patagonia, Ecover, Adnams and so on. These “good” companies have me more than a little intrigued – how do we know they are “good”? Is it real or just good marketing? As being values-based becomes more and more important how do we know who is “good” and who is “bad”?

I’m not trying to cast doubt on any company’s reputation or commitment to becoming values-based, rather I keep thinking that there should be a way for us all to assess a company’s adherence to its values in a more objective way. A tool that lets a company’s stakeholders speak. Would Tesco’s suppliers agree that they “treat everyone how we like to be treated”? Would local communities agree that the newly re-formed TSB really behaves with the sole purpose “to help hardworking local people”?

An organization’s values should come first. They should be the moral compass by which decisions are made. It should be obvious to employees and other stakeholders that the organization behaves in a way consistent with their values. Actions taken, not words written.

We should all care how the companies around us behave. As our world us becomes more volatile we should all take the time and care to make sure we support the right ones.

Not just companies with values we believe, but companies we can believe in.