When’s the last time you thought about business ethics, when it relates to how your tree care company is run and how you and your employees conduct yourself in the field?

A room full of attendees pondered these questions during the “Ethics in Arboriculture” session at the International Society of Arboriculture’s (ISA) Annual International Conference & Trade Show, which took place Aug. 13-17 in Fort Worth, Texas.

The session’s presenter, Lindsey Purcell, an urban forestry specialist at Purdue University, brought up several points that made those in attendance stop and think:

  • Consistency. Regarding situational ethics (answering “It depends,” to “What would you do in a certain situation?”), Purcell said, “If your organization has a strong policy on ethics and compliance, and a strong policy against workplace misconduct, then there’s no situational answer. There’s consistency across the board for all employees.”
  • Representation. “Whenever you walk onto a job site,” Purcell said, “you’re not just representing yourself. You’re representing your family; every time you drive that work truck down the street, you’re representing your company. Even more importantly to all of us, you’re representing urban forestry arboriculture.”
  • Stay informed. Purcell explained why it’s unethical in tree care to misinform customers on tree diagnosis, or misrepresent services you can offer to “protect your ego.” He added, “Know the resources available in all aspects of your tree care practice. Utilize the expertise of others in our profession. If you don’t know, ask somebody.”
  • Further education. “As experienced arborists,” Purcell told the audience, “there’s literally centuries of experience and education in this room. We need to come to the reality that we are heirs to the work of the many generations who came before us. I think we need to realize it’s our responsibility to build the future for those who are early on in their careers. We need to pass on our knowledge.”