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


Shooting the Messenger

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

02 December 2021

IBE news

Institute of Business Ethics research suggests companies need to do more to embed ethical behaviour

04 November 2021


Speak Up, Listen Up, Follow Up

In association with the National Guardian's Office, we participated in their final Speak Up Month event, bringing together the themes of Speak Up, Listen Up and Follow Up.

29 October 2021


Developing a network of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians to support workers to speak up safely 

Read our latest guest blog, by Dr Henrietta Hughes OBE, National Guardian, NHS.

15 September 2021

IBE news

IBE publish a new report, FTSE 100 Codes of Ethics: room for improvement 

Less than half of FTSE 100 companies have Codes of Ethics that are up to scratch, according to new research by the Institute of Business Ethics.

09 August 2021

Publication type: Report

FTSE 100 Codes of Ethics: room for improvement

An assessment of the Codes of Ethics of the UK’s leading companies.

09 August 2021


Shout out for speak up

View our webinar recording.

02 August 2021


The Ethics Study: translating aspiration into action

View the recording of our latest webinar.

13 April 2021


Building Back – Ethically

Dr Ian Peters' article for One magazine on culture and reputational challenges for all organisations. Putting values at the heart of purpose.

25 March 2021

Publication type: Survey

Attitudes of the British Public to Business Ethics 2020

The 2020 results of the IBE's annual survey of the attitudes of the British public to business ethics.

30 December 2020

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


Global Ethics Day 2020

David Grayson, chair of the Institute of Business Ethics, reflects on the Seventh, annual Global Ethics Day, promoted by the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, based in New York.

21 October 2020


#PandemicAndBeyond - Speak up and listen up. Ethics at the front line

In a guest blog for the National Guardian's Office, Dr Ian Peters discusses the importance of speaking up, and listening up.

07 October 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


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

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