What is the ethical issue?

It is now generally accepted by many businesses that employees (and other stakeholders) need a means by which they can raise their concerns about practices they believe may be unethical, unsafe or unlawful. Malpractice can severely damage a company's reputation if it is not dealt with at an early stage, and may go undetected unless arrangements are in place for concerns to be reported.

The failure to have an adequate Speak Up programme can have many ramifications within an organisation. Not only does it not allow employees to feel confident to report wrongdoing, but it can also facilitate wrongdoing within the organisation. Offences such as, but not limited to, a failure to comply with company policy, miscarriages of justice and dangers to health and safety can all be more likely to occur with the absence of an effective Speak Up programme.


IBE Guidance

A summary of good practice
  • Employees need to know how and where to obtain guidance on what is expected of them and the organisation they work for. Effective Speak Up arrangements facilitate the creation of an open and transparent culture, where employees have the confidence to speak out about issues that concern them. Through early detection and prevention of misconduct, organisations are more likely to avoid ethical risk.
  • Methods of establishing an effective Speak Up programme include introducing a code of practice for speaking up, adopting a clear procedure for dealing with reporters which includes thorough feedback and monitoring, improving the reporting/publishing of Speak Up data and allowing third parties to use the organisation's Speak Up line to raise concerns.
  • Speak Up programmes need to be implemented in a way that facilitates an open and transparent environment. Creating such programmes can lead to positivie outcomes such as better risk management, the protection of stakeholders, improvement of staff morale and a reduction in staff turnover.


Essential resources


Further resources


Summer of Speak Up – one year on

Read the blog by Linn Byberg, IBE's Engagement Officer.

31 July 2020


"Uncharted" IBE webinar with Margaret Heffernan

View the recording of our webinar.

09 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… Will O'Connor, Research Assistant of the IBE

As we launch the latest IBE report, Embedding Business Ethics: 2020 report on corporate ethics policies and programmes, Will O’Connor discusses the research aspects of the report in this week’s blog.

01 April 2020


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

01 April 2020


Is there anybody there?

Encouraging employees to speak up about the things that concern them at work (“whistleblowing” if we must) is a key task for organisations in their commitment to creating an open and ethical workplace culture. However, creating such a culture is easier said than done.

26 February 2020

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: Germany

This survey report describes the German findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research and provides comparison with the European average from the eight countries surveyed.

10 December 2019

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: Italy

This survey report describes the Italian findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research and provides comparison with the European average from the eight countries surveyed.

10 December 2019

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work: Singapore

This survey report describes the Singapore findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research and provides comparison with Switzerland and the UK.

23 September 2019


#SummerofSpeakUp webinar series: After I have spoken up

30 July 2019


Speaking Up is the ultimate act of loyalty

On Whistleblower Appreciation Day, there may be a focus on the big news stories, as we are grateful to those who have brought to the public attention issues of public safety, political corruption and corporate malfeasance, in the private, public and third sector.

29 July 2019


#SummerofSpeakUp webinar series: An investigation is under way

26 July 2019


An interview with investigators

Katherine Bradshaw asks Peter Melling, Head of Litigation & Investigations and Andy Noble, Head of Whistleblowing & Speak Up at RBS  some common questions about the investigation process in this #SummerOfSpeakUp blog.

22 July 2019


#SummerofSpeakUp webinar series: Making a report

19 July 2019


Making a report - best practice for organisations

In previous weeks, various authors have explored what sorts of wrongdoing employees observe, and how managers can encourage a culture where employees feel safe to report. In this blog, I draw on academic research into effective speak up arrangements to highlight what organisations can do to make sure they have a process in place that is suitable for handling various types of concerns, and a process that employees can trust. 

18 July 2019


I am not a whistleblower

I have spoken up at work, but I am not a whistleblower. I’m just someone who couldn’t stand by without doing something. 

15 July 2019


#SummerofSpeakUp webinar series: Speaking to someone

12 July 2019


Why having a supportive ethical culture matters to employee wellbeing

We’ve just celebrated Mental Health Awareness Week and with estimates suggesting that nearly 13% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health issues, more organisations are becoming aware of the need to support psychological as well as physical safety.

08 July 2019


#SummerofSpeakUp webinar series: I have a concern

04 July 2019

IBE news

Institute of Business Ethics launches innovative app to support employees who speak up in the workplace

The IBE has developed the IBE Speak Up Toolkit, to empower employees by demystifying the process and managing expectations.

01 July 2019

Load more