Ethics Ambassadors

04 January 2024

Tags: Communication & Engagement

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

Ethics ambassadors play a key role in identifying and mitigating ethical risks and supporting employee well-being in many IBE supporter organisations. At a recent Business Ethics Network (BEN) meeting, we heard from several organisations on how the role operates.

What are the expectations of the role?

To act as role models, to deliver ethics messages, through team meetings or workshops. To answer questions about or consult on ethical matters. In some organisations, they take Speak Up reports, as one amongst multiple available routes to Speak Up.

Making the role work – senior sponsorship for an ethics ambassadors’ network is important.

Middle management is often the right level – senior enough to be able to have an impact, not too senior so they remain approachable.

Role holders need to have the right demeanour and be good at listening.

A suggested ratio is one ethics champion to 200 colleagues, with ambassadors to cover every area of the business. Ethics ambassadors will need support from a central ethics team and need to be clear that their role is to advocate for ethics to the business, and to feed back to the centre, not to seek to represent the needs and hopes of their colleagues to the centre. Ethics ambassadors are trained to be familiar with the organisation’s code, values and Speak Up processes. Some organisations offer skills training in listening with empathy and without judgment.

It is useful to bring ethics ambassadors together regularly to share experiences, feedback with senior leaders, and develop skills and knowledge.

Ethics ambassadors need to be visible to colleagues – for example, through a coloured lanyard or badge, and communications channels.

It can take up to 10% of an ethics ambassador’s time to do the role. Length of tenure can vary, from one year to two years, to indefinite.

One of the debates amongst practitioners in the meeting was how to incentivise and motivate the volunteer ambassadors, as well as how to deal with underperformance. This all comes down to relationships and judgement – being clear about expectations, recruiting the right people, staying connected with them and recognising if circumstances change or they need to step away from the role.

Leadership support for the role was recognised as vital, as the ambassadors need to be supported and recognised in their role, and to be able to carry messages from senior leaders to colleagues and feed back into the centre and be heard.


Rachael Saunders
Rachael Saunders

Deputy Director

Rachael is Deputy Director of the Institute and is responsible for our research programme, and our advisory and training services. She is most interested in how research can generate insights that inspire action. 

Rachael has collaborated with senior leaders across business, charities, communities, local and central government. After gaining her first degree in Politics and History from the University of Durham, and a Masters in Gender and Social Policy from the London School of Economics, Rachael worked in Westminster, then for Carers UK, for UNISON, the public sector trade union, and for the TUC, on skills policy. She was at Business in the Community for over ten years, as an expert in workplace diversity and then in education business partnerships. As a Director at BITC, she worked closely with the Department for Work and Pensions, the then Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and business leaders from Aviva, Barclays, Nationwide, UBS, McKinsey and many more.  Her most recent role was on the SLT of Speakers for Schools as it scaled its delivery of opportunities for young people. 

She has held a number of trustee roles including on the board of the Rich Mix Cultural Foundation, the Bromley by Bow Centre and East End Homes. She is currently chair of a charity called Sister System.  She was an elected local councillor for ten years and served as leader of the Labour Group on Tower Hamlets Council. In 2019 Rachael gained an MSc from Birkbeck, University of London, in Business Ethics and Corporate Governance, with a dissertation focussed on how boards communicate their community engagement. 

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