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 positive outcomes such as better risk management, the protection of stakeholders, improvement of staff morale and a reduction in staff turnover.


Essential resources


Further resources

Publication type: Survey

Attitudes of the British Public to Business Ethics 2024

17 June 2024

IBE news

Trust in politicians, business and media to act ethically is lowest in four years: IBE writes to major parties

17 June 2024


The EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive

04 April 2024


Lots done but more to do on FTSE 350 codes

Reflecting on the findings of FTSE 350 Codes of Ethics: greater clarity needed.

24 May 2023

IBE news

Top businesses told to ‘up their game’ over lack of ethical codes and staff protection

15 May 2023

Publication type: Report

FTSE 350 Codes of Ethics: greater clarity needed

An assessment of the codes of ethics of the UK’s leading companies.

15 May 2023


Post CBI, post Casey, post #MeToo – is now the real time for change?

Read the latest blog from IBE Deputy Director, Rachael Saunders.

27 April 2023


Ethics and staff communications

Read the latest network blog by Rachael Saunders, IBE's Deputy Director.

03 November 2022


A matter of facts

Read Prof. Chris Cowton's guest blog for the National Guardian's Office Speak Up Month 2022 #FTSUforEveryone

24 October 2022


The EU Whistleblowing Directive - does it matter to me? recording

View our latest webinar recording.

21 October 2022


New rules bring new risks – whistleblowing is a golden thread for ESG

Read our latest guest blog by Elizabeth Gardiner, Chief Executive of Protect.

07 September 2022


Putting people at the heart of the speak up process

IBE Associate, Corinne Fenech outlines a speak up scenario and focuses on the people who are impacted by the speak up process.

27 July 2022


One size doesn’t fit all

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

20 July 2022


Speaking up for whistleblowing

Read Prof. Chris Cowton's guest blog for Visslan - an organisation with a vision to simplify whistleblowing.

12 May 2022


Prevention is better than cure

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

27 April 2022


Innovating Business Ethics: Finding the employee pulse with polling

In the next blog of the Innovating Business Ethics series, Richard Hanson, Associate General Counsel - Ethics & Compliance shares how Smiths Group plc use surveys to identify and understand trends in employee views.

09 March 2022


Open conflict

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

03 March 2022


GE Whiz

In our first blog of 2022 Mark Chambers, our Associate Director (Governance), reflects on his time at GE.

13 January 2022


Innovating Business Ethics: The power of stories

In the first blog of the Innovating Business Ethics series, Steve Kerry, Rolls-Royce plc talks about how they use real-life cases handled by the company and turn them into anonymised stories known as ‘case studies’. This is done in collaboration with HR colleague Tracy Leja. This gives extra ‘power’ to their programmes!

22 December 2021


Shooting the Messenger

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

02 December 2021

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