Ethical translation: What is it and why does it matter?

Translation and localisation is the service we provide. But it’s what goes on behind the scenes to provide that service, and how our service is ultimately used, that makes it ethical or unethical.

What does it mean to be ethical?

In a nutshell, ethics are a set of moral principles that govern our behaviour and our conduct. Our Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct outline how we want to exist as a business, how we want to behave and interact with others. In other words, they make up the moral compass that guides our working practices.

There are many elements that go into providing ethical translation services. Here are just a few aspects that we consider:

  • paying fair wages to our employees
  • paying sustainable rates to our freelance linguists
  • creating an environment where everyone is treated with respect
  • creating an inclusive environment that offers equal opportunities to everyone
  • being honest and transparent about our work

Essentially, being ethical is more than just abiding by the law. Being ethical is a commitment to do what’s morally right – for our team, for our customers, for our community and for our planet. 

 

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no-one is watching.”
– C.S. Lewis

 

Sometimes, ethical choices aren’t financially advantageous. For example, there are certain projects we refuse to work on. This might be because the customer’s budget is so low we would be forced to pay unsustainable rates to our linguists, which we feel would be unethical.

We might also refuse to work on projects in industries that don’t align with our personal views (in our case gambling and horse racing to name just a couple of  real-life examples). In this situation, even though the service we provide is ethically made so to speak, our translations would be used to support activities that we find unethical, or at the very least questionable.

This is why being ethical is closely linked to balancing profit and purpose in our business. As a certified B Corporation, we are committed to balancing profit and purpose in our company, so much so, it’s at the very core of our company’s constitution (or our Articles of Association, to give it its legal name).

 

Why do ethics matter to us?

It’s quite simple: we want to see our personal values reflected in our workplace. After all, that’s where we spend a significant amount of our waking hours. We’re in business because we love language and communication, and of course profit is important for every business, but it’s not our biggest driver.

When all is said and done, we want to make a positive impact on this world, and that absolutely starts by treating everyone around us – our colleagues, our freelancers and our customers – fairly and with respect. We’ve always prided ourselves on being an ethical translation company with a focus on creating exciting opportunities for the next generation of translators to enter our industry in a safe and collaborative way. There is always more that can be done, of course, and we are looking to continually improve our social and environmental performance over the coming years.

 

Why do ethics matter to translation buyers?

Building an ethical, sustainable supply chain doesn’t just apply to products and manufacturing anymore. It applies to professional services as well, including translation services. Whether it’s reducing impact on the environment or improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), businesses are working hard to improve their social and environmental performance. And so, choosing the right kind of translation provider – one which shares the same values and beliefs – is becoming ever more important.

For translation buyers, identifying ethical translation providers can be challenging, especially since no-one really seems to talk a great deal about ethics in translation. If choosing an ethical provider is high on your list of priorities, then we suggest doing a little bit of research, and most importantly, having a conversation with your potential translation partner. Find out more about how they are structured, what their values are as a company, dig a little deeper into their supply chain. Transparency is key to any good working relationship, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. You might find this article about how to choose the right translation provider for your business helpful when it comes to assessing translation companies.