A case study on building ethics into client and project selection

Business development efforts shape what organizations do, whom they work with, and the impact that they create, all of which are important ethical considerations. Yet, ethical deliberation rarely enters day-to-day business development activities. This article looks at the unique cooperation between Principia Advisory, an ethics advisory group, and ideas42, a behavioural science consultancy, to systematically integrate ethical considerations into business development opportunity qualification.


Purpose-driven organizations are often strongly guided by the contributions they want to make to broader society. But having a mission grounded in social good doesn’t reduce the number of ethical considerations for an organization.

On the contrary, it is becoming increasingly critical for organizations to act in a way that is consistent with their purpose and ethical commitments.

Yet building ethical deliberation and decisions into daily choices about who to work with to achieve financial growth objectives remains one of the most pressing challenges for leaders.  


Decisions made during business development define what an organization does, who it works with, and how it delivers. However, despite the criticality and complexity of these decisions, ethical deliberation is rarely integrated into opportunity qualification in a systematic way. Failure to incorporate ethical thinking into business development workflows can result in decisions that cause reputational risk, employee discord, and work that undermines the organization’s purpose.


Behavioural science consultancy ideas42 engaged Principia to add an applied ethics framework to its existing business development process and enable it to better pursue projects and partnerships that deliver on its purpose. To achieve this, Principia and ideas42 co-designed a workflow that systematically integrates ethical deliberation into the opportunity qualification process.

Recognising that participation is critical to the success of ethical change initiatives, Principia and ideas42 formed a blended team. The team worked collaboratively to harness the leading-edge insight of Principia’s academic network of ethics experts and optimise uptake with ideas42’s best-in-class behavioural science techniques. The team worked together on the below process:


Integrating ethical deliberation into the opportunity qualification process ensures that decisions are reflective of the organization’s purpose, values and its ethical commitments. An ethical approach to business development can reduce reputational risk and help organizations create the impact that they and their teams want to see in the world.


The article was co-authored by Marta Noran, Associate Principal at Principia Advisory, and Sriram Sridharan, Senior Associate at ideas42.

Principia Advisory is the leading advisory firm on organizational ethics. We work with our clients to translate values and principles into consistent, ethical decision-making and action.

ideas42 is a non-profit that uses insights from behavioural science to improve lives, build better systems and policies, and drive social change.