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

Philippa Foster Back CBE

Philippa began her career in Corporate Treasury and Finance, prior to her appointment as Director of the Institute of Business Ethics in 2001 from which she stepped down in April 2020. 

In this role, she ran the IBE delivering with the team UK and international advisory work, research and publications, training, and events, all with the purpose of raising awareness and sharing of best practice in business ethics, in line with the IBE’s charitable aims. In 2008 she was a member of the Woolf Committee looking at business practices at BAE Systems.

In June 2020 she was appointed a Director of the Financial Markets Standards Board (FMSB Limited). Other current appointments include being a member of the BEIS/FRC Coalition Group looking at Corporate Governance in Large Unlisted Companies; a member of the Advisory Board of the D Group; a member of the PRCA Global Ethics Council; a member of the Finance Leasing Association (FLA) Stakeholder Advisory Panel; and Director of Barrier Biotech Ltd. Philippa is also Chairman of the UK Antarctic Place-names Committee.

In 2006 she was awarded the OBE for services to the Ministry of Defence in her capacity as NED and Chair of the Defence Audit Committee. She won the M&S/BITC Sieff Award in 2008. In January 2014 she was awarded the CBE for services to UK Antarctic Heritage. In 2018 she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Law from University of Warwick and in 2020 an Honorary Doctorate of the Open University.

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