Every day is ethics day

16 October 2018

Tags: Ethical Values

This week sees the celebration of both World Values Day and Global Ethics Day. But to us here at the IBE, every day is ethics day.

Of course, we support awareness raising days in principle.  It is great to see organisations focusing on ethical values and talking about what’s important to them and the way they do business. You can see how some of IBE’s supporters interpret what ethical business means to them on our website. 

But I am concerned that such one-off celebrations are a bit like thinking that ethics is one person’s responsibility. For instance, the Ethics and Compliance Officer sits at the end of the corridor and we don’t really need to worry about any ethical issues, as they’ll sort it out. 

But doing business in the right way is everybody’s responsibility.

Business ethics may seem like a loaded term, even philosophical, but it’s just a way of communicating how you do business. 

Business ethics isn’t just what you read in the news: big issues like corruption, artificial intelligence, Human Rights, modern slavery or climate change.  It’s about the ethical decisions which we make at work every day. By the water cooler, in the staff room, even down the pub, you will often hear people talking about ethical issues without even realising it; issues of fairness, trust, conflicts and dilemmas.

Whether it’s considering speaking up about a problem, choosing who to promote or who to hire, what supplier to go with, whether to bend the rules to keep a client  – we are making ethical choices every day.

Our Ethics at Work survey found that employees are facing increased in pressure to compromise ethical standards across all the countries surveyed. 

The survey also found that employees in organisations with a supportive ethics environment -  ones which have a code of ethics, training, and a confidential means of raising concerns, together with supportive line management - are significantly less likely to say they have felt pressured to compromise ethical standards and are also significantly more likely to report misconduct.

A supportive ethics environment – or a corporate culture – isn’t just something to be thought about once a year.

Ethical values are for every day, not just for Values Day, because they are ‘business as usual’. 


Philippa Foster Back CBE
Philippa Foster Back CBE

Director, IBE, 020 7798 6040, info@ibe.org.uk

As Director of the Institute, Philippa is responsible for implementing strategy, leading the team and ensuring that the Institute meets its charitable aims of raising awareness and spreading best practice in the field of business ethics.

Since taking a degree in Geography at University College London, Philippa has 30 years of business experience. She began her career at Citibank NA before joining Bowater in their Corporate Treasury Department in 1979, leaving in 1988 as Group Treasurer. She was Group Finance Director at DG Gardner Group, a training organisation, prior to joining Thorn EMI in 1993 as Group Treasurer until 2000. In 2001 she was appointed Director of the Institute of Business Ethics.

In connection with her role at the IBE, she served on the Woolf Committee 2007/8, looking at ethical business practice in BAE Systems plc. She speaks widely on business ethics issues, encouraging high standards of business behaviour based on ethical values.

She sits on the Board/Advisory Board of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI), and RAND Europe. She is a Visiting Fellow of the Said Business School at Oxford University and Honorary Vice President of the Employee Ownership Association. She chairs the Antarctic Place Names Committee and is former Chairman of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Philippa was awarded an OBE in the New Year's Honours 2006 for services to the Ministry of Defence and in July 2008 was awarded the BITC Marks & Spencer Sieff Award. In the New Year's Honours 2014 she was awarded a CBE for services to Antarctic Heritage.

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