The critical role of ethics training in shaping an ethical culture by Samuel Lawal

29 February 2024

Tags: Training

In today's dynamic business landscape, building an ethical culture is essential for long-term success and positive societal impact. At the core of achieving this goal lies ethics training – a crucial tool for shaping the attitudes, behaviours, and decision-making of individuals within an organisation. This blog explores why ethics training matters, who it is for, and how often it should be conducted. The blog draws on the findings of a recent supporter poll on ethics training and includes tips synthesised from practitioners' discussions at a Business Ethics Network (BEN) meeting on the same subject. The full survey results are available to BEN members here.

The ethics training poll aimed to provide an understanding of the training topics currently conducted by IBE supporter organisations, and to outline how they are classified i.e. ethics training, general training, and/or induction training. The poll also aimed to identify the key target audiences of these training topics and the frequency with which they are conducted in these organisations.

How can training topics drive ethical culture from day one?

In the ethics training poll, 15 BEN members were presented with twenty-five training topics and asked, “which of the following training topics are covered in your organisation, and how are they currently classified?”

At least one-third of respondents reported that training on code of conduct (8 respondents), anti-bribery and corruption (8), speaking up (8), conflict of interest (6), integrity / doing the right thing (5), ethical decision-making (5), and fraud (5) were covered as ethics training in their organisation. At least one-third of respondents also reported that these seven training topics, as well as, data protection, and company values constituted induction training in their organisation.

These findings suggest that some organisations recognise the importance of ethics training in helping new employees understand the organisation's values, principles, and ethical expectations. By introducing ethical awareness from the beginning, organisations lay the foundation for a culture of integrity, accountability, and respect among employees, ensuring everyone becomes responsible for ethical conduct.

The IBE’s guidance on developing code of conduct strongly recommends the inclusion of an intuitive ethical decision-making framework to assist employees in making ethical decisions even in complex situations. However, almost half of the respondents (7) reported that ethical decision-making was not currently covered as a training topic in their organisation. This finding suggests that some organisations may be vulnerable to risks that can be mitigated with training on ethical decision-making.


  • Training that draws from real-world situations and encourages audience participation resonates better with participants and adds an element of authenticity.
  • Anonymised Speak Up and Whistleblowing platforms are reliable sources for developing a library of real-world dilemmas.
Who should take part in ethics training?

At least one-third of respondents reported that thirteen of the twenty-five training topics were mandatory for all employees. Two-thirds of respondents reported that training on cyber security, anti-bribery and corruption, data protection, and code of conduct was mandatory for all employees in their organisations. These four topics in particular help organisations mitigate against data security risk, financial risk, and behavioural risk.

Ethics training provides a basic understanding of ethical principles; therefore, it is important for everyone in an organisation regardless of their position. By making ethics training accessible to all, organisations empower employees to handle ethical challenges with confidence and integrity, strengthening the ethical culture of the organisation. While ethics training is important for all employees, some employees may need specialised training for their specific roles. For example, those involved in procurement, sales, or finance may require training to navigate ethical dilemmas unique to their jobs.


  • Management plays a crucial role in sending a strong message across the organisation on the importance of ethics training. It can be as simple as visibly conducting or partaking in ethics training themselves – Lead by example.
  • Flattery and exclusivity can be effective in encouraging buy-in from high-ranking managers.
How frequently should ethics training be conducted?

At least one-third of respondents reported that training on anti-bribery and corruption, code of conduct, data protection, cyber security, speaking up, and conflict of interest were covered on a recurring basis.

Maintaining ethical standards requires ongoing effort and adaptation. Therefore, organisations should offer regular ethics training sessions alongside timely interventions when needed. Regular training serves as a reminder, reinforcing ethical principles and addressing emerging ethical issues. Additionally, interventions are crucial in response to critical incidents or changes, equipping employees with the knowledge and skills to navigate unexpected ethical challenges. For example, as organisations embrace diversity and inclusion, ethics training must address cultural sensitivity, promoting ethical behaviour across multicultural teams.

By promoting a culture of continuous learning and adaptation, organisations enable their workforce to uphold ethical standards amidst uncertainty and change.


  • Running training topics on a recurring basis can become repetitive. Designing training programmes that cover specific training topics over a period (e.g. 2 – 3 years) can help circumvent this problem. Alternatively, recurring training can adopt a shorter refresher course format.

From induction programmes to specialised training and regular sessions, ethics training permeates every aspect of organisational life, nurturing a community of ethical leaders and stewards. As organisations navigate the complexities of the modern business world, investing in ethics training is not only a strategic decision but also a moral obligation to stakeholders and society. Through a true commitment to ethics training, organisations pave the way towards a brighter future, where ethical principles guide their actions and decisions.


Dr Samuel Tosin Lawal
Dr Samuel Tosin Lawal


As a Researcher at IBE, Sam plays a crucial role in supporting the development, delivery, and dissemination of both internal and external research and advisory projects. Sam's passion lies in harnessing the potential of both quantitative and qualitative data to foster a culture of ethical considerations within business practices and policies, ultimately contributing to a broader societal impact.

Before joining IBE, Sam held the position of Research Officer for the University of Reading's Research Culture Project. In this role, he led research initiatives aimed at enhancing the research environment within the university. Additionally, Sam worked part-time as an Associate Lecturer at Henley Business School, where he delivered Undergraduate Business modules and supervised Master's dissertations in Marketing.

Sam holds a degree in Accounting from Babcock University, Nigeria, and an MSc in Business Analytics and Management Science from the University of Southampton. Notably, in 2018, he secured the prestigious Henley Business School Marketing and Reputation PhD Scholarship. This accomplishment led to the successful completion of his PhD in Marketing and Reputation from the University of Reading, where his thesis investigated the malleability of public attitudes and behaviours to organisational stories incorporating stakeholders' perspective.

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