What is the ethical issue?

Understanding how employees make decisions is important for organisations of all sizes in order to ensure the measures they have in place to promote ethical behaviour are appropriate. As a result, companies are increasingly investing resources in the development of an ethics programme that brings their ethical values to life and provides guidance to their staff on how to tackle ethical dilemmas.

Naturally, all companies run the risk of facing ethical issues or running into reputational problems due to the behaviour of employees. Even companies with a mature ethics programme are not immune from lapses or even major ethical scandals that pose clear questions about the effectiveness of these programmes. If codes of ethics are not effectively embedded into workplace culture or decision-making, be it through performance management, incentives or other methods, then companies increase the chances of unethical behaviour permeating through the company.

Research has highlighted how the culture of a workplace, particularly if that culture is considered to contribute to the way decisions are made, can impact the ethical behaviours of employees. Individuals believe that the expectations placed on them in their professional role, combined with a culture which is possibly not values-led, can result in setting aside ethical principles. If these behaviours are prevalent in an organisation, it greatly increases the risk of scandals and reputational issues arising.

 

IBE Guidance

A summary of good practice
  • There are ways in which organisations can induce positive and ethical behaviour. Organisational expectations are key, and doing the right thing as an instinctive reaction and ensuring high personal moral standards should be outlined early as an expectation from employers. Following this, ethics needs to become part of the reward, recognition and promotion system.
  • In day-to-day work, where decisions are made and tasks are completed, organisations need to be aware of how time pressures can negatively impact ethics in decision-making and how internal communications and language can influence workplace culture.

 

Further resources

Blog

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

Blog

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

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: 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

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: Canada

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

26 June 2019

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: Switzerland

This survey report describes the Swiss findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research and provides comparison with the European average.

23 May 2019

Blog

Ethics and values are at the heart of a sustainable culture

David Grayson: I am delighted to take on the chairmanship of IBE. Ethics and values are at the heart of creating a sustainable culture.

02 April 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

Webinar

How ethically does the public think British business behaves?

17 December 2018

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: New Zealand

This survey report describes the New Zealand findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research.

28 November 2018

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom

This survey report describes the Australia and New Zealand findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research and compares them with the findings from the UK.

27 November 2018

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: Australia

This survey report describes the Australian findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research.

27 November 2018

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: Portugal

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

19 November 2018

Webinar

What do UK employees think about ethics at work?

16 October 2018

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: United Kingdom

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

13 September 2018

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work: 2018 Survey of Employees: Europe

Ethics at Work: 2018 survey of employees analyses the results of the survey and examines whether formal ethics programmes are effective in embedding ethical values into organisational culture and influencing behaviour.

05 July 2018

Publication type: Business ethics briefing

Beyond Law: Ethical culture and GDPR

What are the wider ethical implications of GDPR? How can an organisation’s values be embedded and monitored so that the new regulation becomes a measure of those, rather than simply a set of compliance rules that must be ticked off?

30 May 2018

Blog

Ethics is everybody's business

How can you support large numbers of employees in multiple locations in doing the right thing? One approach is to spread a network of ethics ambassadors throughout the business – it is an excellent way to ensure that messages about ethics and conduct are communicated effectively, consistently and meaningfully to staff in multiple territories.

18 April 2018

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