The IBE Blog

Paying a living wage is the ethical thing to do

Research Hub Blog: Linn Byberg, Researcher

This week marks Living Wage Week, a chance to reflect on what it means to be paid a ‘living’ wage and evaluate how well employers are living up to this promise. Originally set up as an initiative to tackle in-work poverty, the living wage has been defined as the salary an employee requires in order to cover their basic needs, including adequate food, shelter and clothing. 

This Living Wage week also signifies the point at which new living wage rates will be announced.

As stated in the IBE’s briefing on Fairness in the Workplace: pay, the Living Wage initiative embodies the notion of "a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work”. The Living Wage initiative asks employers to choose to pay the Living Wage on a voluntary basis and so provides an ethical benchmark for responsible pay. As of November 2019, there are 5706 Living Wage accredited employers.

The authentic organisation

Directors' Blog: Mark Chambers

Companies now have an array of tools to help them attract new talent. In a crowded marketplace and faced with increasingly aware and discerning candidates, there are powerful incentives for companies to paint highly flattering impressions of their culture. Projecting authenticity in this space is everything but, as Groucho Marx might have said, "if you can fake that, you’ve got it made”.

Global Ethics Day – why we still need it

Research Hub Blog: Linn Byberg, Researcher

The 16th of October 2019 marks the sixth anniversary of Carnegie Council’s annual Global Ethics Day. Inspired by Earth Day, Global Ethics Day provides an opportunity for organisations around the world to hold events on or around this day, exploring the meaning of ethics in international affairs.

Different cultures may have differing priorities and interpretations when it comes to ethics, but on Global Ethics Day it is worth keeping in mind that there is more that unites than divides us. One such common denominator, that we can all agree on, is "the Golden Rule”, which teaches us to treat others as we would wish to be treated ourselves.

Real Intelligence about AI

Directors' Blog: Professor Chris Cowton


It’s a familiar human experience that rapid advances in technology outrun our ability to manage them well. New ethical risks take time to recognise, think through and manage, to ensure that these advances contribute consistently to flourishing lives and a better society. We can find ourselves playing moral catch-up.

What do right and wrong mean, in an increasingly digital world? asks Professor Chris Cowton.

The Dissenting Director

Directors' Blog: Mark Chambers

We live in times of dissent where the only consensus seems to be that we can’t agree on the biggest issues facing the country. We have seen senior leaders resign on principle rather than support proposals that they find unpalatable. 

Do we have similar pressures building for boards?

Most of the time boards reach big decisions by discussion, debate and refinement of a proposal, resulting in a consensus that every director is willing to support. Differences of opinion around the board table help shape that consensus and compromises are made to find a middle ground. Diversity of thought and experience amongst the directors is vital to refining and improving the proposal. At the end, even if individual directors would each have preferred a slightly different outcome, they are prepared to live with the final consensus.

Speaking up is the ultimate act of loyalty

Philippa Foster Back CBE, Director

On Whistleblower Appreciation Day, there may be a focus on the big news stories, as we are grateful to those who have brought to the public attention issues of public safety, political corruption and corporate malfeasance, in the private, public and third sector.

But here at the IBE we would also like to spare a moment to appreciate those who may not make the headlines, but nevertheless, make an important contribution to the openness and integrity of their organisation’s culture, by raising their concerns about something which is troubling them.

Speaking Up should not be a life changing or career limiting event; we’re working towards it being something which occurs in the course of working life, as business as usual. Being able to raise concerns should be a natural part of our conversations with managers, with teams, with each other.  

An interview with investigators

Katherine Bradshaw asks Peter Melling, Head of Litigation & Investigations and Andy Noble, Head of Whistleblowing & Speak Up at RBS  some common questions about the investigation process in this #SummerOfSpeakUp blog.

When we think of an investigation, our imaginations can be coloured by how much television crime drama we watch. Peter Melling laughs as he recalls a scene from Line of Duty, where an internal investigation interview with the suspected corrupt police officer is bullying, belittling and intimidating. "Our interviews are nothing like that,” he says. "We understand that being part of an investigation is distressing for anyone who has to be interviewed, so we go out of our way to put people at ease. I have been interviewed myself as part of an investigation, so I can empathise. It’s a stressful experience.”

Right from the beginning, the investigators at RBS try and build a rapport with those who have the courage to raise their concerns within the company. "We’re acutely aware of how stressful the process can be, no matter how well it is managed,” says Peter.

Making a Report - best practice for organisations

Guest Blog from Meghan Van Portfliet, Queen's University Belfast

Previously on the IBE #SummerofSpeakUp blog, various authors have explored what sorts of wrongdoing employees observe, and how managers can encourage a culture where employees feel safe to report. 

In this blog, Meghan van Portfliet draws on academic research into effective speak up arrangements to highlight what organisations can do to make sure they have a process in place that is suitable for handling various types of concerns, and a process that employees can trust. 

Researchers have recently explored how a range of organisations handle Speak Up arrangements, and have come up with recommendations to help turn a report of wrongdoing into corrective action on the part of the organisation. The research looked at a range of businesses and sectors, and identified best practices that can help ensure that speak up arrangements actually work, rather than just being a process on paper.

I am not a whistleblower

#SummerofSpeakUp - Roz Spinks, Head of Advisory Services

I have spoken up at work, but I am not a whistleblower. I’m just someone who couldn’t stand by without doing something.

I raised a concern about a bullying senior manager. My colleagues were too afraid to; fearful of the consequences and painfully aware that it had been done before with seemingly no action taken. Instead they warned against it – "if you report it, your life will be hell” was the message. 

I followed the recommended procedure – I raised my concern directly with the individual about how their behaviour was affecting me, as well as the team, and when that didn’t work, I raised it with another senior manager. But nothing seemed to happen.

Why having a supportive ethical culture matters to employee wellbeing

#SummerofSpeakUp: Linn Byberg, Researcher

We’ve just celebrated Mental Health Awareness Week and with estimates suggesting that nearly 13% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health issues, more organisations are becoming aware of the need to support psychological as well as physical safety.

There is a critical link between employee mental health and working in an ethically supportive environment. The IBE’s 2018 Ethics at Work Survey finds that one in six employees in Europe (16%) say that they have felt some form of pressure to compromise their organisation’s ethical standards and that the number of employees experiencing this pressure has increased since 2015. As well as leading to unethical behaviour, this pressure can have a negative impact on employees’ mental health and wellbeing, particularly if it is felt over time. 

What do employees want to speak up about?

#SummerofSpeakUp: Guendalina Dondé, Head of Research

"If Liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear,” wrote George Orwell in the original preface to Animal Farm. This is, in essence, what speaking up about ethical misconduct in the workplace is also about. 

Encouraging employees to raise their concerns and put in place mechanisms that allow them to do so effectively, and without fear of reprisals, is important to creating open organisations. Knowing what employees think is key in developing an ethical culture where issues can be addressed before they become damaging problems. 

An ethical approach moves AI from threat to opportunity

Directors' blog: Peter Montagnon

One of the biggest challenges facing business at present is how to exploit the opportunities afforded by Artificial Intelligence. 

There is a big temptation to spend a lot of time worrying about the risks – of cyber-attack or about the reputational damage that can follow if the algorithms make decisions which end up damaging the business.

We can see from the debate about Huawei how the public and politicians can see AI as a threat. Do we really want the Chinese Communist Party to know all about us and who we communicate with? Or more particularly, when our motor insurance company promises to cut our premiums if we install a black box to monitor our driving, do we really want it to know where we have been going? Can we trust it not to pass the information on to someone who will use it against us?

Yet to conclude from this that we need to restrict the usage of AI is also to forgo many of the benefits it brings. 

Views my own - ethics and social media

Culture Club: Katherine Bradshaw, Head of Communications

In the same way as I was told as a child that watching too much television would give me square eyes, the prevalence of social media has led it to be demonised in the press as an example of all that is wrong with society.  

Hiding behind a screen has seen an alarming exposure of the nastier side of the internet, as keyboard warriors and trolls seem to scream all the louder in social media’s echo chamber. Yet despite new stories of sinister algorithms and our data being used for nefarious or political ends, we seem as addicted as ever to using technology to share and connect with one another. 

Business ethics starts where the law ends, and no more so than when it comes to social media. As a relatively new technology, there is little case law, and so we must rely on our ethical values to guide us.

Ethics and values are at the heart of a sustainable culture

Professor David Grayson CBE

I am delighted to take on the chairmanship of IBE. Ethics and values are at the heart of creating a sustainable culture.

I have been involved in debates about, and the practice of, business and society, and the responsibilities of business, for almost all my adult life. I have never seen this as just about mitigating risks by minimising negative Social, Environmental and Economic (SEE) impacts; but also about creating opportunities through optimising positive SEE impacts. 

This is both doing the right thing, and also about creating the best possibilities for continuing into the indefinite future: true Corporate Sustainability.

Bringing your ethics training to life

Culture Club: Roz Spinks, former Head of Advisory Services

One element of advisory work IBE is often asked for support with is the development of engaging training materials to help embed messages about values and encourage conversations about ethical issues for specific subjects and audiences.

It has long been established that the best way to communicate and explore messages about values and behaviour is with the use of stories. Stories define who we are, what we do, and why and how we do it and that’s what makes up our culture – whether that’s in our work place, our family, or our group of friends.  

Using scenarios to develop ethical sensitivity gives employees an opportunity to practice understanding other perspectives, analysing a situation and seeing a way forward in line with ethical values in the safety of a hypothetical situation. 

So what makes a good scenario? 

Changing attitudes to business - why millennials matter

Research Hub Blog: Linn Byberg, Researcher

Millennials have been a recurring theme in recent surveys on business ethics issues and they continue to have an impact on the business ethics agenda.

Millennials show the most positive change in opinion about business behaviour, with nearly 7 in 10 millennials now considering British business to be behaving ethically. This is a dramatic change from last year, when over-55s were more likely to feel this way and only half of millennials agreed. 

What were the 'hot' ethical issues of 2018?

Research Hub Blog: Simon Webley, Research Director

Now here is a surprise! The UK public’s trust in business has jumped and is at its highest level since 2003.

2003 was the first year the IBE Research Hub published the UK survey of public opinion of business behaviour. In 2018, 62% of the UK public said they think business behaves ethically. It was 52% in 2017.

Stop Press - trust in business on the rise

Directors' Blog: Philippa Foster Back CBE

Although this is the season to be merry, opening a newspaper or your newsfeed, you would be forgiven for feeling pretty gloomy – constitutional crisis in the UK, riots in Paris and Sir David Attenborough’s warning that time is running out unless we do something about climate change, to name a few.

But at the Institute of Business Ethics, we have some cautious good news. Public trust in British business is at its highest level in 15 years.

Making the Financial Reporting Council fit for purpose

Directors' Blog: Peter Montagnon

Sir John Kingman will by now be putting the final touches to his report on the future of the Financial Reporting Council. 

Whatever he decides, some change seems inevitable for an organisation whose role encompasses both standard setting and enforcement. Insofar as these roles are combined, he might do well to consider whether the governance approach that seems best for one is also best for the other. The answer could point to the extent to which there is a real need for change.

Trust is the currency of ethics

Emmanuel Lulin, Senior Vice-President and Chief Ethics Officer: L’ORÉAL

Ahead of the launch of IBE’s Ethics at Work: 2018 survey of Employees: France, Katherine Bradshaw caught up with Emmanuel Lulin, Senior Vice-President and Chief Ethics Officer at L’ORÉAL, silver supporters of the Ethics at Work survey.

Every day is Ethics Day

Directors' Blog: Philippa Foster Back

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.

How do you interview for ethics?

Research Hub Blog: Linn Byberg


An organisation's hiring process is a potential employee's first encounter with its ethical values, so it makes sense that the conduct of employees during the interview phase should be awarded due care.

An interview is a two-way process, as much about the candidate seeing if the organisation is right for them, as for the interviewer to assess the potential employee.

Making Section 172 come alive

Directors' Blog: Peter Montagnon

Section 172 of the UK Companies Act 2006 has become a kind of code-word for corporate culture.

Mention it in a discussion on corporate governance and learned heads will nod wisely as if all we have to do is get Section 172 right and everything will then be fine.

In a few brief sentences, this piece of legislation manages to capture just about every relationship a company needs to interact smoothly with the society on which it depends for its social licence to operate. Yet this also depends on getting the balance right, and here the authorities seem to be missing a trick.

Values are like fingerprints

Tim Langton: Centrica

"Values are like fingerprints. Nobody's are the same, but you leave 'em all over everything you do.”

"This Elvis quote exemplifies why the Ethics at Work survey is so interesting for us at Centrica from a corporate perspective,” says Tim Langton Group Ethics & Compliance Officer at Centrica, IBE subscribers and silver supporters of the survey. "So it really struck a chord when Jo Morgan, who heads Ethics and Compliance at Rolls Royce, used it at the launch of IBE’s Ethics at Work survey.

"Elvis was right – everyone looks at ethics differently and ethics at work doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to everybody. That’s why we’re looking at the results of the survey to create a dialogue about what ethics at work means for us as employees and as an organisation.”

Research Hub Blog - How are Aviva encouraging an open culture?

A key finding in this year’s Ethics at Work survey is that, of the third of European employees who have been aware of misconduct at work during the past year, just over half of them (54%) spoke up.

So how do you encourage an open culture? One where employees can have the confidence to speak up about issues, and trust that they will be listened to and their concerns acted upon without fear of repercussions?

IBE subscribers, Aviva, silver supporters of the Ethics at Work survey, are examining ways to encourage greater trust in their Speak Up and investigations process.

Ethics Lens on ... Behaviour

Forget the idea that human beings are perfectly rational if you want to make your ethics programme effective.

In reality, we don’t always make consistent decisions, based on strict logic or narrow self-interest. Human behaviour is complex and emotions and intuition have a significant role to play in individual decision-making.

IBE Blogs

Directors' blog: Peter Montagnon

An ethical approach moves AI from threat to opportunity, writes Peter Montagnon

Culture Club: Views my own

Katherine Bradshaw explores the ethical dilemmas of social media at work

Ethics and values are at the heart of a sustainable culture

Professor David Grayson, IBE's new chair, shares his thoughts on ethics and sustainability

Culture Club: Bringing your ethics training to life

Rozlyn Spinks shares some tips on what makes an effective scenario 

Research Hub: Changing attitudes to business

Linn Byberg looks at how millennials are changing business ethics

Research Hub: What were the hot ethical issues of 2018?

Simon Webley looks back on the the business ethics news stories of last year

Directors' blog: Trust in business is on the rise

Philippa Foster Back examines the results of IBE's public attitudes to business survey

Directors' blog: Making the FRC fit for purpose

Peter Montagnon asks some pertinent questions ahead of the Kingman review

Trust is the currency of ethics

Emmanuel Lulin, Chief Ethics Officer at L'Oreal takes a personal look at IBE's Ethics at Work survey

My Basket

There are no items in your basket


Support Us & Get Involved

Support the IBE
Contact the Institute of Business Ethics