January 23 2003 - Most businesses in the UK have not reacted to the recent 'ethics crisis'
according to a survey of 400 business people. It seems that corporate ethics is not a priority for
most companies as over 65% of people surveyed said they had seen no change to practices at their company, some even going so
far as to imply that corporate ethics is an oxymoron.
The survey was conducted by PowerInfo, a London-based business in formation
broker. Over 400 business people were asked how the corporate ethics crisis of the past year had changed their
own and their employers' attitudes and business practices. The survey was conducted amongst
users of Hoover's Online, one of several business information sources in the PowerInfo
Rethinking personal business ethics
The media exposure of 'creative accounting' practices and conflicts of interest at places
like Enron and Arthur Andersen has led most individuals to think more about their own
business ethics. More than 60% of respondents from a wide range of industries from
banking and finance to media and entertainment said that they had focused more on
business ethics last year.
What matters most
Asked to rate the relative importance of honesty and success in business, 70% of those
interviewed said they valued honesty more highly than success. However, the gender split
revealed a discrepancy with only 48% of males versus some 90% of females placing the higher
value on honesty.
But respondents of both sexes viewed honesty as a crucial component in success. Said one:
"The recent media hype may help companies realise the value of ethics and honesty. The PR
value alone of perceived honesty may be enough to make it a focal point for success in
Despite individuals' commitment to acting ethically - or perhaps because of it -- many
respondents expressed disappointment at employers' disregard for ethical behaviour. "My
company is more interested in stock prices and profits than in being honest with the
client," said one seemingly disillusioned computer professional. "I don't think companies
were focusing on ethics last year, except in very superficial ways," remarked another.
PowerInfo CEO Gehan Talwatte commented, "The media may have been all over this issue but
it seems UK businesses are still not taking note. That's not likely to change as long
as shareholders are happy with their returns and the government diverts attention by
throwing more paper at the problem."