Resources for SMEs

Few owners and senior managers of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) will deny the importance of good, trusting relationships with customers, employees, suppliers and the community. The success of their company depends on it


Why think about business ethics?


Due to requirements higher up in supply chains, smaller firms are increasingly asked about their social and environmental credentials and ethical risk management during tendering processes with large corporations.

SME owners and managers will also recognise the importance of trust and integrity in business after being on the ‘receiving end’ of unethical business practice; for example, when customers and suppliers deliberately do not meet agreed terms and conditions, especially regarding late payments by customers.
Owners and managers can often encounter ethical challenges. Examples include:
  • Do I meet a deadline with my customer and ship out products even though I know there is a possibility they might be faulty, or do I openly discuss my difficulties with the customer?
  • How do I ensure that my employees do their work properly and do the right thing?
  • How do I deal with my employees’ desire to balance their work obligations with their personal ones?
  • How do I respond when securing an important contract seems to require the payment of a kickback?
  • Do I delay payment to suppliers and the Inland Revenue when my cash-flow is currently limited?

The desire to build trusting internal and external relationships, as well as growing pressures from wider society, should lead SME owners and managers to consider the extent to which ethical values and principles guide their business decisions. What does ‘doing the right thing’ mean for their employees?

Some useful resources

Read more about business ethics and SMEs in this free briefing.

 A survey from the AAT outlines the case for SMEs to consider an explicit code of ethics.


Other useful information 

IBE, Beyond Law: Ethical Culture and GDPR, 2018

IBE, Using Behavioural Ethics to improve your Ethics Programme, 2018

IBE, Encouraging a Speak Up Culture, 2017 

IBE, Ethics Ambassadors: promoting ethics on the front line, 2017

IBE, Fairness in the Workplace: staffing and contracts, 2015

IBE, The Ethics of Gifts & Hospitality, 2012

IBE, Ethical Due Diligence in Recruitment, 2010

IBE, Ethical Due Diligence: an introduction and guide, 2007

IBE, Supplier Relationships in the UK: Business Ethics and Procurement Practice, 2006

IBE, E-Learning Tool - Understanding Business Ethics


Business Ethics News

IBE monitors the media for business ethics stories

Latest Business Ethics Thinking

Keep up to date with the latest surveys, blogs and newsletters

Find Out More about Business Ethics Topics and Issues

Some common ethics issues and challenges


Sample scenarios for teaching and training

Books & Films

Our favourite books and films

IBE Videos

Pearls of Wisdom from IBE's Research Director, Simon Webley

Showcasing Good Practice

IBE supporters and others talking about ethical business practice

The IBE Blog

Latest thinking from the IBE


Answers to the most frequently asked questions 

My Basket

There are no items in your basket


Support Us & Get Involved

Support the IBE

Contact the Institute of Business Ethics