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Business Ethics

What are business ethics?

Business ethics, or corporate ethics, is the application of certain moral values within a professional context, or business environment. Business ethics are, broadly, the moral framework which governs how one might achieve professional success without violating the widely held principles of honesty, integrity, trust, and fairness.

What are ethical issues in business?

Common ethical issues businesses must confront are conflicts of interest, issues of employee behavior, and managing client relations.

What are conflicts of interest? 

A conflict of interest is a situation where an individual, group, or organization must navigate the demands of mutually incompatible interests that could corrupt what would otherwise be a normal decision-making process. An example might be a sales associate motivated by a financial commission to sell as many products as possible, but there also being a fiduciary responsibility to those products themselves. When faced with a client who wants to buy the product, but it is not in their best interest to do so, the associate is faced with an ethical dilemma: Sell the unneeded product and profit, or uphold fiduciary responsibility and fail to make the sale?

What is social responsibility?

Social responsibility is a concept within business ethics that involves how an organization—but particularly a business—might serve the betterment of the public at large while still achieving its business goals. Social responsibility often involves how an organization’s actions might impact certain groups of people or the environment, for example.

What is a code of conduct? 

A code of conduct is a formal statement of expectations made by an organization to its members or employees of how they are to live up to the highest values of the organization. In many cases, a company’s code of ethics is not meant just to promote moral and high-minded behavior, but in so doing, to provide a valuable risk management service by discouraging and prohibiting the kinds of unethical behavior—such as insider trading or discrimination—that could result in regulatory or legal liabilities.

News Article

Commission proposes law to beef up EU whistleblower protection

Neil Hodge | April 30, 2018

In light of recent high-profile scandals at such big wigs as Volkswagen, the European Union is proposing new laws to strengthen whistleblower protection for reporting both internally and to public authorities.


The Compliance Library: Latest books show the way to better ethical decision making

Richard Bistrong | February 6, 2018

Workplace pressures can challenge even the most ethically stalwart, so how can we better frame tough ethical dilemmas and better see when we’re compromising our own values?

News Article

How board members can prepare for a #MeToo moment

Bill Coffin | December 26, 2017

The PwC 2017 Annual Corporate Directors Survey highlights some key risks and opportunities for how boards might survive their own Weinstein moment, should one ever arise.


Sexual harassment must become a compliance issue

Joe Mont | November 7, 2017

No longer can sexual harassment claims be shuffled off to the HR department. The accusations need to be viewed in terms of materiality and reputation risk.


Everybody lies: Corporate veracity in a post-truth world

Joe Mont | October 24, 2017

The truth is out there. But does it really matter anymore? A look at the impact of truth versus and lies in the business world.

Global Glimpses Blog

FRC on monitoring corporate culture

Paul Hodgson | August 3, 2016

A recent report from the Financial Reporting Council offers guidance to board chairmen on how to promote corporate culture. The report advises boards to align values, exercise steardship, and demonstrate leadership, among other steps. Paul Hodgson provides an in-depth look.

Grapevine Blog

Institute of Business Ethics Appoints New Trustees

Scuttlebutt | September 18, 2015

The Institute of Business Ethics this week announced that it has appointed four new trustees to join the Trustee board, chaired by Edward Bickham. The new trustees replace recent retirees, as well as augmenting the skills and experience of the Trustee board. Details inside.