Here’s my summary of the IBE’s latest survey on ethics, which centres on attitudes to, and perceptions of, ethics in the workplace in Europe.

The numbers

  • 81% of employees in the UK believe that honesty is practised daily in their organisation, with a small percentage (8%) feeling pressured to compromise their values.
  • While the awareness and use of whistle-blowing systems is growing, only 39% of employees in the UK are satisfied with how their concern was dealt with.
  • Younger employees (16-34) expect more from the organisation they work for than older people (55+).

 The content

  • One of the biggest reasons for lapses in ethics is the gap between standards set by the Board and the daily reality of staff needing to meet organisational targets.
  • While the UK has ‘moved on’ from the financial crisis, more sectors have since become embroiled in scandals, leading to a higher engagement from the general public in business ethics. The most provocative issues are tax and executive pay.
  • Across continental Europe, employees are less positive about ethics at work now than they were in 2012: honesty is said to be practised less frequently and employees are more aware of misconduct.
  • The report outlines how to embed ethical values, citing a code of ethics as the most important element, along with a speak-up (whistle-blowing) line; helpline; and ethics training.
  • Where ethical frameworks are in place, employees are more likely to say that honesty is practised always/frequently.

The verdict

  • The report takes a long time to get going, front-loading messages from sponsors and information about the scope/ methodology. It’s a determined reader who keeps scrolling!
  • In design, and content, it’s easy enough to read, but pretty dry.
  • I’d like to have seen deeper exploration of the issues: what do the results mean on a practical level; how can you seismically shift behaviours; what’s the value of ethical behaviour etc.?
  • Some high-level analysis of the psychology governing ethical behaviour at work would also have made interesting reading.

Last word

This report doesn’t set out to innovate, but it’s a useful gauge to track attitudes to business ethics over time and interrogate national trends. Keeping a spotlight on ethics matters and while this report probably won’t radicalise your approach, it might prove useful for conjuring up some stats for that Board presentation you’ve been putting off.

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