Who is the conscience for corporate ethics?

A new report from the IABC Research Foundation shows that less than half of companies encourage discussion of moral dilemmas and criticism of censurable conduct at the workplace.

The Business of Truth: A Guide to Ethical Communication” says most organizations maintain or practice a generally healthy climate for ethical concerns and issues, with 70 percent of respondents agreeing that their organization makes it clear to employees what is ethically acceptable and what is not.

Additionally, IABC says, 67 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that top management will not tolerate unethical behavior.


[…] The research also explored organizational values about ethical conduct of managers. The majority of the study’s respondents (69 percent) disagreed with the statement that managers in their company often engaged in unethical behavior. When questioned further on corporate values on reprimanding unethical behavior, 68 percent of communicators said their companies would promptly reprimand managers found to be acting unethically for personal gain. However, if the unethical behavior was primarily for corporate gain, only half the respondents (51 percent) believed that the manager would be reprimanded by their company.

A useful study in a business climate where the dark Enron chapter has just closed.

IABC says its report has “sparked a debate on who is responsible for managing and handling ethical concerns at an organization.” I’ve not been able to find this debate online – nothing in IABC’s Memberspeak discussion forum for members nor in the IABC Cafe – but IABC is running a quick poll where you can offer your view.

I added my answer today and it is interesting to see what 97 respondents have said so far:

Who is responsible for managing and handling ethical concerns at an organization?

The leading answer by a big margin is the CEO or other senior executive. That was my answer, too.

What would you say?

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Dennis Howlett

    I’m picking up on a piece of this. And yes – I am in rant mode.

    What planet are you on Neville? Dark Enron chapter closed? Perleeeeease. This is anything but over. The accounting profession can’t agree on disclosure in publicly quoted company accounts. The profession, in the guise of IASB, is looking to REDUCE the level of disclosure at exactly the moment when transparency looked as though it might happen. 75-80 respondents to IASB discussions around ED8 disagree.

    There is a strong suspicion among some of us that the use of tax havens is now so endemic as to have generated a £20 BILLION tax gap in the UK alone. This is the difference between what the accounts say is paid and what ‘should’ on the basis of reported profits – be paid.

    Any discussion about ethics and where to lay repsonsibility is moot until the basics are sorted out.

    And that’s before we think about business practices. It’s now becoming sufficiently important a part of my remit to demand a redesign and refocus at my place. Coming soon.

    In the meantime see my analysis of Lay/Skilling verdict.

  2. neville

    Thanks, Dennis, although a bit off topic for my interest. But that’s what a rant is about, I suppose.

    Still, I take your primary point – two bad guys going to jail isn’t the end of the story. So perhaps I should have said something like “A useful study in a business climate where a dark chapter in the Enron story has just closed.”

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