Global Ethics Day 2018: Every Day is Ethics Day

Nov 7, 2018

This article is by Philippa Foster Back CBE, and was first published by the Institute of Business Ethics on October 16, 2018. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

As director of the Institute, Philippa is responsible for implementing strategy, leading the team and ensuring that the Institute meets its charitable aims of raising awareness and spreading best practice in the field of business ethics.

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.

But I am concerned that such one-off celebrations are a bit like thinking that ethics is one person’s responsibility. For instance, the Ethics and Compliance Officer sits at the end of the corridor and we don’t really need to worry about any ethical issues, as they’ll sort it out.

But doing business in the right way is everybody’s responsibility.

Business ethics may seem like a loaded term, even philosophical, but it’s just a way of communicating how you do business.

Business ethics isn’t just what you read in the news: big issues like corruption, artificial intelligence, Human Rights, modern slavery or climate change. It’s about the ethical decisions which we make at work every day. By the water cooler, in the staff room, even down the pub, you will often hear people talking about ethical issues without even realising it; issues of fairness, trust, conflicts and dilemmas.

Whether it’s considering speaking up about a problem, choosing who to promote or who to hire, what supplier to go with, whether to bend the rules to keep a client – we are making ethical choices every day.

Our Ethics at Work survey found that employees are facing increased in pressure to compromise ethical standards across all the countries surveyed.

The survey also found that employees in organisations with a supportive ethics environment – ones which have a code of ethics, training, and a confidential means of raising concerns, together with supportive line management – are significantly less likely to say they have felt pressured to compromise ethical standards and are also significantly more likely to report misconduct.

A supportive ethics environment – or a corporate culture – isn’t just something to be thought about once a year.

Ethical values are for every day, not just for Values Day, because they are ‘business as usual’.

Credit: Institute of Business Ethics