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

Webinar

Purpose and the Pandemic

View the recording of our webinar.

02 June 2021

Blog

We All Make Mistakes – But Can We Learn from Them?

In our latest guest blog, Corinne Fenech, discusses why unethical decision making is not above any of us, why this matters, and what each of us can do about it.

26 May 2021

Blog

Ethics challenges for new employees and those changing jobs

Read our latest guest blog by By Kirk O. Hanson, Coauthor of Rotten: Why Corporate Misconduct Continues And What To Do About It.

12 May 2021

Publication type: Other

Recent Surveys on Business Ethics

Read the IBE's summary of the latest surveys on business ethics.

26 April 2021

Webinar

Rotten: Why Corporate Misconduct Continues and What to Do about It

View the recording of our webinar.

14 January 2021

Blog

Attitudes. Ethics. Trust.

In this blog, Guendalina Donde, IBE's Head of Research, discusses the results of the 2020 Attitudes of the British Public to Business Ethics survey.

13 January 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

Blog

The Lessons of 2020

To end 2020, IBE's Director, Ian Peters, reflects on the lessons learnt and looks ahead to 2021.

23 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

Webinar

Pandemic, People, Ethics: The other PPE

View the recording of our webinar.

10 December 2020

Webinar

Hugh Kay Lecture: Standards in Public Life - Are we in a Post-Nolan age?

View the recording of our webinar.

12 November 2020

Webinar

Ethics Goes Viral: pandemic dilemmas

Review the webinar recording, dilemmas and voting results of our previous series.

15 October 2020

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

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