Integrity is regularly considered one of the top characteristics that a business leader can have — whether you’re asking employees or CFOs. Sometimes, however, business integrity is considered a cost or burden — a commitment that is almost guaranteed to make a business harder to run over time.

Efficiency and integrity don’t have to be enemies — with the right planning and budgeting techniques, it’s possible to reduce costs while staying committed to business integrity.

What is Business Integrity?

There are many ways to define business integrity — but almost all definitions boil down to the same thing. A business with integrity makes it a point to adhere to a strict moral code or set of ethical standards. These standards then guide how the business operates. Ideally, at every level of the business, every employee sees themselves as responsible for maintaining the integrity of the business and carrying those standards forward.

In some countries and business environments, this may mean standing up to corruption and bribery. In others, it may mean keeping forthright in deals and negotiations or building a business plan that centers ethical business operations.

In any case, integrity is sometimes associated with worse performance or a dulled competitive edge — even though research doesn’t back up this belief. Almost always, it’s possible for a business to keep its integrity while improving performance and reducing costs. Here are 3 of the best ways to reduce costs while maintaining business integrity.

1. Take Account of Spending

Try to be clear-eyed about where spending is needed — areas where your business may be spending money on items it doesn’t need, especially if it’s cash-strapped in other areas. This can sometimes happen at large businesses where budgeting processes can get siloed into individual departments — so that while one department may have more money that it really needs another may be struggling to make do with less.

If your business is able, find ways to cut back on or eliminate discretionary spending. It’s often possible to reduce costs without negatively impacting a company’s ethical commitments. For example, a company committed to sustainability can often find materials for construction projects that are both low-cost and eco-friendly. Equipment upgrades, new employees and office redecoration can also wait if necessary.

Even if your business has made a commitment to a purchase or spending money, it’s often possible to negotiate your way out of a costly or nonbeneficial contract honorably. Start by discussing your business’s situation with the other party, and be forthright about your business’s needs to cut costs. It may be possible to renegotiate or buy your way out of the contract — reducing costs without sacrificing reputation, business relationships or integrity.

Improving business negotiation can also help reduce costs over the long run.

2. Use Time Efficiently

Time-saving strategies can be a great way to reduce cost without affecting the integrity of your business.

When possible, avoid letting meetings go over by following some simple steps — like drafting comprehensive meeting itineraries and being sure to have a team member keeping an eye on the clock.

When an employee is pulled off a task, they’ll be distracted and will almost certainly need some time to get back to regular levels of productivity. Scheduling meetings only when necessary can reduce these distractions and can help employees productive.

Careful scheduling of meetings can also be good for employee morale — if you demonstrate a commitment to valuing the time of every member of the team, it can be easier for employees to feel appreciated.

On a personal level, you can switch to time-saving and organizing apps that help you structure your use of time and see where you’re using it efficiently. You can also lead by example with time-saving apps, and encourage other staff members to adopt these tools and review their own use of time at work.

3. Take Advantage of Virtual Technology

Switching to new cloud-based tools and storage can often provide cost reductions and increase efficiency without making it harder for a business’s employees to act with integrity.

For example, these tools can also allow for virtual meetings that reduce the need for coordinating the schedules of leadership or management —allowing for extra scheduling flexibility and more efficient use of leadership’s time.

Also, depending on how data is stored, it may be possible for executives to access important budgeting info without a local copy. This means that business decisions can be made even when an important member of a business is travelling or doesn’t have access to one of the business’s computers.

Other virtual solutions, like new business intelligence and analytics software, can provide business analysts with the tools they need to discover new ways to generate profits and reduce costs.

Maintaining Integrity While Lowering Costs

Integrity in business is typically considered one of the most valuable traits that a leader can have — but many also think that integrity is something that can cost a business and prevent it from operating efficiently.

Most of the time, this isn’t true. There are ways that a business can reduce costs while maintaining, or even improving, business integrity — like improving use of time, negotiating better contracts and taking advantage of some of the newest technology available.

About the author

Kayla Matthews, a tech-obsessed innovation writer, has written featured pieces for InformationWeek, The Innovation Enterprise, The Muse and more. You can see more of Kayla’s work on her site, Productivity Bytes, or follow her on Twitter @KaylaEMatthews.