Institute of Business Ethics offers help for SMEs to build an ethical future

IBE news
28 January 2021


As British businesses build back from the ravages of the pandemic there will be great focus on how they behaved during the crisis and whether they have the trust of stakeholders to create a sustainable future. Whilst big businesses may have the skills and resources to focus on these issues, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have often been focussed on survival. Yet, their reputation and how they behave will be just as important to their future reputation as for their larger counterparts.

That is why the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE) has launched a Business Ethics Toolkit designed to help SMEs create a business ethics framework and minimise the ethical risks they face but without having to make a huge commitment in terms of resources. The toolkit is available free of charge.

Dr Ian Peters, IBE’s Director, said: 
“At a time when businesses face unprecedented uncertainty, business ethics might not be seen as a priority. From Brexit to Covid, many smaller organisations are just focussing on staying afloat. 
As businesses react to the challenges, however, it is even more important that they are perceived to behave ethically. Stakeholders are increasingly demanding it. This toolkit is designed to help SMEs in their quest to do just that.” 

The toolkit helps organisations define and approach the following key components for developing an ethical framework:

1. What is our culture? 

  • Assess your culture
  • Engage with your staff
  • Identify and define core values

2. How do we build an ethical culture?

  • Write a brief code of ethics based on your values that captures your collective expectations
  • Appoint a person to act as a reference point with regards to ethics
  • Encourage employees to speak up

3. How do we put it in practice?

  • Continually communicate your commitment to ethics 
  • Provide ethics training to your employees
  • Keep up the good work done and review regularly 

The toolkit is designed for SMEs and growth companies, but it is useful for all organisations that are starting to formalise their approach to ethics or have budget constraints.

It draws on over 30 years of IBE experience working with a network of Supporter organisations and it is enhanced by a number of tools and research pieces that provide in-depth guidance on different elements of an ethics programme. It is designed to be useful for organisations operating in any sector worldwide.