What is the ethical issue?

Some may view bribery and corruption as financial crimes, with no apparent victims. But corruption means that public money may be diverted from helping the most vulnerable in society, power is abused and infrastructure suffers.

Business relationships rely on trust. Bribery and corruption abuses that trust, and goods and services are not procured in a clear, ethical or transparent way. For this reason, an organisation or its employees should never accept or pay bribes, including facilitation payments.

However, while organisations need to comply with relevant legislation on bribery and corruption in the countries in which they operate, because there are varying standards of regulations throughout the world, this becomes a regulatory grey area. Organisations need to be aware that the UK Bribery Act 2010, and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act 1977 are both extraterritorial in their application. 

In some countries, corruption can be so endemic as to be 'socially acceptable', for example, with requests from officials for 'facilitation payments' in order to get things done. A facilitation payment is a small sum of money paid to secure or expedite the performance of a routine or necessary action to which the payer has legal or other entitlement.


IBE Guidance

A summary of good practice
  • In the UK, the 2010 Bribery Act requires that an organisation has adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery and corruption. Similar legislation also exists in other countries, such as Sapin II in France. 
  • The key is to ensure your organisation’s culture promotes doing business with integrity - encouraging the right behaviour, discouraging the wrong behaviour and rewarding those who speak up about breaches of your code of ethics. Only by aligning it with a strong culture will your company’s anti-corruption efforts be truly "adequate”.
  • Organisations will need to take a zero tolerance stand and undertake not to pursue business that will require them or any group companies to engage in unethical or illegal practices, and refuse to accept business if it requires giving or receiving a bribe or kickback. Third parties need also to be able to demonstrate that they comply with this policy.
  • In some jurisdictions, in addition to the UK, guidance is given on what is expected of an organisation to demonstrate it has adequate procedures. 


Further resources

Publication type: Other

Recent Surveys on Business Ethics

Read the IBE's summary of the latest surveys on business ethics.

01 February 2022

Publication type: Business ethics briefing

Business Ethics in the News 2021

This resource presents an overview of the ethical concerns and lapses, as well as the positive business ethics stories, that the IBE recorded for its media monitoring exercise in 2021. It provides an analysis of the year’s trends and the issues and sectors that featured most frequently.

24 January 2022


Ethics and Business: understanding public attitudes

View our latest recording.

20 January 2022

Publication type: Survey

Attitudes of the British Public to Business Ethics 2021

Britain’s businesses could behave better - the 2021 results of the IBE's annual survey of the attitudes of the British public to business ethics.

17 January 2022


Attitudes. Ethics. Trust.

In this blog, Guendalina Donde, IBE's Head of Research, discusses the results of the 2020 Attitudes of the British Public to Business Ethics survey.

13 January 2021

Publication type: Business ethics briefing

Business Ethics in the News 2020

This briefing provides an overview of the ethical concerns and lapses that were recorded by the IBE in its monitoring of media coverage in 2020.

23 December 2020


#PandemicAndBeyond - An ethical dilemma series

In the next blog of the series, Pandemic and Beyond: the ethical issues, Simon Webley, IBE’s Research Director, looks beyond a code of ethics and shares some ethical dilemmas.

10 September 2020


In conversation with… Catherine Harris from Transparency International UK’s Business Integrity Programme and Maggie Mckie, Manager at PwC

Read our latest guest blog.

03 July 2020

Publication type: Survey

Embedding Business Ethics: 2020 report on corporate ethics policies and programmes

This report is the ninth in the triennial series looking at corporate ethics policies and programmes. It is the IBE’s longest-running survey series, and continues to give valuable insights into how companies run their ethics programmes.

01 April 2020


In conversation with… Simon Webley, Research Director of the IBE

The new edition of the IBE report on ethics policies and programmes in large listed companies will be published on 01 April 2020. In preparation for the launch, we shared a preview of the results with some of our supporters and colleagues, asking them to comment on how these results relate to their practical experience in the field of applied business ethics.

25 March 2020

Publication type: Business ethics briefing

Business Ethics in the News 2019

This briefing provides an overview of the ethical concerns and lapses that were recorded by the IBE in its monitoring of media coverage in 2019. It gives an overview of which sectors and issues related to business ethics were most covered in the news. For 2019, we have recorded a total of 361 different stories involving lapses of companies with a UK presence.

29 January 2020

Publication type: Other

PaC Anti-Bribery and Anti-Money Laundering Bibliography

This bibliography of resources aims to provide professionals in the legal, accounting and property sectors with a repository of knowledge and guidance to help them stay up to date with the latest work that has already been completed on these topics, in order to ensure that the highest possible ethical standards are maintained.

15 January 2020


IBE Speak Up Toolkit

The IBE Speak Up Toolkit helps employees prepare for raising a concern at work. It answers questions about the entire process – from noticing a problem and having a conversation through to what to expect if you call a Speak Up helpline or if your concern is investigated. Use the toolkit for free, or find out about bespoke customisation for your organisation

01 July 2019

Publication type: Other

A Year In Review: Ethical Concerns and Lapses 2018

Read the IBE's annual analysis of business ethics news stories from the last year - which were the sectors and issues most in the news in 2018?

30 January 2019


The IBE Say No Toolkit

From responding to a bribe, to making a facilitation payment, are you confident your employees know what to do? The IBE Say No Toolkit provides in-the-moment support to your employees when they need it most.

21 January 2014

Publication type: Business ethics briefing

The Ethics of Gifts & Hospitality

This briefing considers some of the ethical issues around the giving and accepting of corporate gifts and hospitality and outlines good practice.

10 November 2012

Publication type: Business ethics briefing

Anti-Bribery & Corruption (ABC) Standards and Frameworks

This briefing provides a useful overview of standards and guidelines which have been drawn up to combat bribery and corruption in business, including their implementation requirements.

10 October 2012