A board's core purpose is to promote the long-term success of the company in line with its values. Boards that embrace ethical standards explicitly in the way they and the company operate are best placed to achieve the durable benefits that come from doing business ethically. 

The board is the forum for reviewing holistically the organisation's stakeholder relationships. In reality, it is the only forum, as it directs the company's purpose, business model and strategy.


IBE Guidance

A summary of good practice
  • It is imperative that the board review is based on the organisation's values. These are the foundation as to how business is done whatever the situation.
  • Values are not just about ensuring good behaviour by employees. They are also important support in decision-making. Boards frequently have to make difficult decisions and address problems for which there is no absolutely right answer, for example in considering executive remuneration, or the use of artificial intelligence. A clearly articulated and consistently applied set of values will help guide boards in their decision-making.
  • Directors also need to have a clear set of policies on topics such as managing conflicts of interest; financial reporting; and its dealings with stakeholders, amongst others.
  • As the board has responsiblity for the organisation's culture, it is good practice to establish a board level committee with oversight for establishing, reinforcing and monitoring the ethics policy and identifying ethical risks and opportunities.


Further resources 


Mark Chambers Podcast with Black Sun plc: Board-level discussions on purpose

IBE's Associate Director, Mark Chambers talks with Black Sun about company purpose.

22 September 2020


#PandemicAndBeyond - In conversation with... Michael Coates, Shell CECO

In the next blog of the series, Pandemic and Beyond: the ethical issues, Shell CECO Michael Coates discusses his first year in the role and shares meaningful insights on prioritising ethics during this challenging period.

16 September 2020


Ethical culture doesn’t exist on its own!

Read the blog by our Chair, Prof. David Grayson CBE.

12 August 2020


"Uncharted" IBE webinar with Margaret Heffernan

View the recording of our webinar.

09 July 2020


Culture Shock

Read the blog by William O’Connor, IBE's Research Assistant.

08 July 2020


Ethics: a risky business?

Read the blog by Prof. Chris Cowton, IBE’s Associate Director (Research).

25 June 2020


Perspective matters - putting a values-based business model at the heart of reporting and governance

Read the blog by Mark Chambers, IBE's Associate Director (Governance).

10 June 2020


Guest blog: Reputation

Read a guest blog from Francis Ingham, PRCA's Director General.

04 June 2020


In conversation with… Mark Chambers, Associate Director (Governance) of the IBE

In the final blog of the series we round up with IBE’s Mark Chambers.

15 April 2020


In conversation with… Henri Van Elewyck, Group Senior Vice President Ethics and Responsible Business Conduct of Sodexo

In the penultimate blog of the Embedding Business Ethics series we're in conversation with Henri Van Elewyck, Group Senior Vice President Ethics and Responsible Business Conduct of Sodexo.

08 April 2020


Doing business ethically in a time of coronavirus

Our Chair, Prof. David Grayson CBE discusses doing business ethically in a time of coronavirus in the latest IBE blog.

06 April 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


2020 Trends: present challenges and future opportunities for Ethics & Compliance practitioners

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


Openness and Trust in British Business

In order to thrive in the long term, businesses need to gain the trust of the communities from which they draw their employees and customers. One key way that organisations can seek to gain this trust is through increased openness and transparency, albeit recognising that total transparency is not practical or feasible in all circumstances.

11 March 2020


Building an ethical culture

In this blog Prof. David Grayson CBE, Chair of the Trustees, discusses practical steps that a company can take, “when times are good”.

04 March 2020


Trust – Ethics as the key driver

03 March 2020

Publication type: Board briefing

Ethics and Section 172: key questions for informed board decision-making

The aim of this Board Briefing is to help companies benefit from the new reporting obligation, and to encourage them to go beyond legal requirements. It is intended to convince companies to reflect their values in decision-making and report on what they have done to define and embed appropriate standards of conduct across the organisation.

19 February 2020

IBE news

IBE launches Ethics and Section 172 Board Briefing

Directors need to embrace the benefits of new reporting requirements, advises new report by Institute of Business Ethics.

19 February 2020


Now is the right time to look at your culture

Ethical failures in business continue to happen with depressing regularity. Unfortunately, many organisations are only spurred to look at their culture and take the steps to embed ethical values at the heart of their decision making after things have gone badly wrong and customers, shareholders and colleagues have suffered as a result. 

05 February 2020

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