New research released today reveals that organisations with clear ethics programs are more likely to be seen as responsible in their business practises by their employees.

The new survey, undertaken by The Institute of Business Ethics (IBE) in partnership with our team at The Ethics Centre (TEC) found that the majority of Australian employees are aware that their organisations have each of the building blocks of an ethics program; a code of ethics, training, and a ‘speak up’ line.

“Ethics at Work” was launched to The Ethics Alliance members this morning through an intimate panel discussion that explored the implications of the findings, featuring Philippa Foster Back of IBE, John Neil and Cris Parker of TEC and Jill Reich of Uniting.

The survey reveals that awareness of ethics programs positively impact how employees feel their company deals with stakeholders. Those with an ethics program are significantly more likely to feel that their organisation acts responsibly in business dealings, at 84 percent. This compares to less than half of those without an ethics program (49 percent). There was one counter-intuitive result where 42 percent agreed their line manager rewards employees who get good results even if it’s through questionable practises.

We’ve spent the last 30 years working with individual organisations to establish ethical frameworks, and worked with many major organisations in recovery from ethical failure. The impact of clear lived values and principles at all levels of an organisation is tremendous, and instrumental to a positive, supportive culture.

The survey also illuminated the role managers play in upholding behaviours within the workplace. Managers were more likely than non-managers to view their organisation positively, both in engagement with stakeholders (77 percent vs 71 percent), and in application of social policy (75 percent vs 67 percent).

It further identifies pressures felt and attitudes toward management positions:

  • Managers are more likely to feel pressure to compromise their ethical standards than those not in a management position (by nine percent)
  • They were also much more likely to have lenient views toward charging personal entertainment as expenses and using company petrol for mileage
  • Employees who have felt pressure to compromise their ethical standards were also more likely to feel their manager failed to promote/reward ethical behaviour (43 percent).

At an employee level, almost one in four reported awareness of misconduct in the workplace, yet worryingly only one in three of those workers decided to speak up.

Of those who have experienced misconduct at work, the most common types were bullying and harassment (41 percent), inappropriate or unethical treatment of people (39 percent) and misreporting of working hours (32 percent).

In addition, more than one in ten (13 percent) have felt pressured to compromise their ethical standards in the workplace.

The Ethics Centre, and our membership program The Ethics Alliance are committed to raising the ethical standards of business in Australia. To find out more about our work visit