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"Ethics? What ethics?"

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 portfolio.

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 business."

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."



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