Corporate Ethics Policies and Programmes: 2016 UK and Continental Europe survey

Publication type: Survey
26 January 2017

Tags: Communication & Engagement, Ethics Programme issues, Code of Ethics , Ethical Values, Training, Supportive Environment, Treatment of Employees

This triennial survey provides an overview of how ethics is embedded within large organisations that operate in the UK and Continental Europe.

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Key findings

  • Although mechanisms for employees to raise their concerns confidentially have become widespread in large organisations, protecting employees who raise their concerns from any form of retaliation remains a challenge
  • While 97% of companies with a speak up system also have a policy to protect employees from retaliation for doing so, less than half have a formalized approach to monitoring it
  • Senior leaders are more engaged in ethics - 86% of respondents say that ethics, values and culture are regularly discussed in board meetings
  • The most frequently mentioned ways companies are measuring culture are: the percentage of employees receiving training, the data about speak up and the results of staff surveys
  • More focus is needed on the internal communcation of ethics, with more than a quarter of respondents saying that their company doesn not have a internal communication strategy for ethics
  • Among FTSE 350 companies, ethics training is being delivered more regularly than in 2013, particularly to senior leaders and managers


  • How do organisations make sure that employees share their core values and feel empowered to do the right thing?
  • How can ethics become an integral part of doing business?

This triennial survey, now in its eighth edition, provides a picture of how ethics is embedded within large organisations that operate in the UK and Continental Europe.

When the IBE conducted this survey for the first time in 1995, much emphasis was placed on the code of ethics. Twenty years on, organisations look at ethics through a more sophisticated lens and it has become evident that, whilst a code is necessary, it is not sufficient to ensure that core values are embedded throughout business practice.

It is based on the IBE Business Ethics Framework to build an ethical culture in business. By following this model, organisations can influence their employees’ behaviour and decision-making, ensuring that they are shaped by the company’s core values. This will help them to achieve and fulfil their purpose, promoting long-term success.

This survey has been written for those who wish to gain a better understanding of how an ethics programme can be managed effectively. People across different business functions can benefit from its findings – senior executives, managers, other employees or external stakeholders who are seeking to gain an insight into how companies embed ethics wherever they operate.

For companies that are starting out, this survey provides an overview of the different elements of an ethics programme. It enables organisations with more established ethics programmes to observe how they compare with typical practice and gain an idea of where it can be improved and enhanced.