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Ethical issues particularly related to the business ethics of day-to-day decision making within agricultural cooperatives are identified.

Ethical behavior builds trust which, in turn, sets a foundation for communication, commitment, loyalty, and cooperation.

Cooperatives are challenged to distinguish themselves from other organizations and to strengthen their competitive advantages by being leaders in developing and emphasizing ethical business behavior.

Cooperative leaders are presented with an analytical framework for determining the ethicality of their cooperative business decisions, which should help them to avoid potentially unethical and embarrassing positions and decisions.

Ethical versus moral versus legal behaviors are discussed.

Reasons why ethical behavior builds successful cooperatives are identified.

Farmer opinion and a possible surveys indicate that producers erosion of ethical behavior. are concerned about ethical issues

Results of focus group meetings with cooperative managers and directors identify several ethical issues that leaders often encounter and have to address.

Forces and pressures that may promote or cause leaders or cooperative members are discussed. unethical behavior by cooperative

Cooperative leaders face critical questions to ask and danger signs to look for in determining if their own organization is at ethical risk.

A step-by-step procedure is presented for use by cooperative leaders who want to maintain or improve the ethical conduct of their cooperative businesses.

Guidance is provided for cooperative leaders who want to develop a code of ethics that is appropriate for their cooperative businesses.

A series of practical exercises for facilitating discussion and understanding of ethical issues on an individual cooperative basis have been developed and are included for cooperatives wishing to conduct meetings, discussion groups, conferences, etc., on ethics for employees, directors, and even members.

Published As

This report is published as Strengthening Ethics Within Agricultural Cooperatives, (with Paul Lasley, C. Phillip Baumel, and Pat Hipple) Agricultural Cooperative Service, USDA, Rural Business Cooperative Service, RBS Research Report 151, February 1997.