Banking and finance, information technology (IT), and the professional services sectors recorded the biggest number of ethical lapses, according to the number of negative news stories published about them in the U.K. press, says the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE).
The research found that most of the ethical issues concerning the banking sector were related to corporate behaviour and culture, followed by bribery and corruption.
The technology sector’s ethical problems primarily centred around data privacy breaches, while the main issues in the professional services sector focused on behaviour and culture, followed by the treatment of employees, speaking up/whistleblowing, and conflicts of interest.
Overall—and irrespective of sector—over a third (35 percent) of ethical lapses reported concerned the treatment of employees and/or business culture. Data protection came third, largely due to increased media focus on the implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Most of the stories concerning mistreatment of employees related to unfair working conditions and wages, as well as the abuse of gig-economy and zero-hour contract workers. These findings also correspond with the latest IBE survey, “Attitudes of the British Public on Business Ethics,” released last December, where 21 percent of respondents cited exploitative labour as an issue which needs to be addressed.
The IBE said that there had also been increased media/public interest in diversity, discrimination, and executive remuneration, while news stories relating to fraud and theft, as well as bribery and corruption, fell substantially.