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UK business risks falling behind on ethical practice: leading expert

  • Institute of Business Ethics urges UK companies to define and measure ethical culture
  • Percentage of staff trained on what is ethical conduct falls over half-decade
  • Fewer employees likely to raise workplace concerns

One of the UK’s leading experts on business ethics has warned that British companies must improve their measurement of working practice and culture, or risk falling behind international competitors. Dr Ian Peters MBE, Director of the Institute of Business Ethics, issued the warning as the Institute launches a new guide on how companies can define and measure ethical culture.  

The Institute’s 2022 polling of UK attitudes found that less than half of Britons (44 percent) believe businesses behave ethically. 

Dr Peters said he was concerned by a fall in the percentage of UK workers claiming to have received training on ethical conduct and the number willing to speak up about workplace issues in the past half decade. Data collected by the Institute as part of its 2021 international survey of employees showed little over half (58 percent) claimed to receive training on ethical conduct – down from nearly four in five (78 percent) in 2015. The UK also saw a sharp drop in the percentage of staff claiming to have raised workplace concerns with management, with 55 percent raising concerns in 2021 compared to 67 percent in 2018. 

The UK ranked seventh among the 13 countries surveyed by the Institute in the percentage of staff willing to raise workplace concerns.  

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Dr Ian Peters MBE, Director of the Institute of Business Ethics, said: 

“The ability of businesses to define and measure their ethical culture is crucial to staff morale and wellbeing. We have seen a decline over the last half decade in the UK of workers claiming to receive training on what represents ethical practice and those raising concerns they have in the workplace. This should be a warning sign that companies need to up their game. 

“Companies should take the opportunity to consider what they want their culture to be and how they can continually check this is understood throughout the organisation. Not doing so makes it more difficult to manage staff issues and maintain morale.” 

The Institute of Business Ethics works with more than 140 companies ranging from SME to FTSE100 corporations.

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