On the positive side, the overwhelming majority of
executives and managers consider the internal and external dealings at
their organizations to be ethical, with more than two-thirds saying
they are extremely ethical.
However, when those same business leaders rank business in general
compared to five years ago, only about one-fifth said internal and
external dealings were extremely ethical.
Significantly fewer managers than executives consider business dealings
today to be extremely ethical, according to a nationwide survey of
senior executives and managers we conducted.
There is substantially more public awareness of questionable
practices inside businesses these days, causing many companies to
either establish or highlight internal controls.
“The corporate corruption cases of the last few years have created an
environment of businesses instituting ethical practices,” said one
survey respondent. “Also, government regulations have created a reason
for companies to have better due diligence in this area.”
“There is more awareness of ethics in business and it is
seeping into the boardroom,” said another respondent. “Converting this
to action is not as evident.”
This heightened public awareness increases the accountability
of businesses, requiring the leaders of those businesses to increase
their own internal focus on ethical behavior.
“The incidents over the last couple of years
have awakened the market,” said one respondent. “Anyone expecting to
attract and retain consumers and employees must be sensitive to
building and strengthening their brand from an ethical (trusted) point
of view or risk alienation and diminishing returns.”
The attention to improving ethics is not only the
responsibility of the experienced managers and executives currently
working, but will increasingly fall on the next generation of managers
now completing their education.
“The ethics are swinging back to what they should be, and
hopefully the younger generation and recent college graduates will
raise the bar from where it has been the past 10 years,” said one
Said another: “External environment and change in CEO has forced our
financial services firm into a new phase in its existence. Increased
concern with ethics has been a positive outcome of the recent changes.”
Any successful internal or external dealings or activities are like any good relationship; they are based on trust.
“Unfortunately, the lapse of ethical behavior by senior
management in both for profit companies and in some large
not-for-profit organizations have had a significant negative impact on
all business enterprises, charities and associations,” said one
respondent. “It will take a lot of hard work to win back the trust of
It’s time for those business leaders who haven’t already done so to do
that hard work and put ethics and accountability where they belong: at
the top of the value chain.