WEDNESDAY 18 SEP 2013 10:53 PM


Due to the advent of the internet, and Web 2.0 in particular, meaning that information is now more readily available and people are more likely to possess both the ability and desire to share their opinion; there has been a renewed public interest in ethical business practices with companies’ reputations often at stake if things go wrong.

It was with this in mind that the Institute of Internal Communications jointly hosted a summit today with The Reputation Institute on the Ethics of Internal Communication, held in London’s Covent Garden. Speakers at the summit consistently espoused the ideal that ‘Businesses are all about people, and internal communications needs to recognise this’, discussing their individual (and albeit shared) professional experiences and views on promoting desired behaviours rather than purely company policy.

The term ‘business ethics’ describes the moral framework of principles from which individuals and businesses take guidance on how to behave. The IoIC 2013 Ethics survey showed that 83% of respondents agree with the statement, ‘My organisation has a clear ethics policy/code of conduct’. This statistic however, does not show employers how many employees actually follow their organisation’s code of conduct.

The crux of this issue is that business leaders are often left asking themselves if their employees are truly engaged in the values and practices expected by the company, and therefore, if they are not, how best the company should approach addressing their ‘Strategic Employee Alignment’ – a term referenced to by The Reputation Institute’s Uk managing director, Spencer Fox.

Atkins’ group communications director, Sarah Lipscombe, who also spoke at the event, stated simply, “Broadcast communications has its place, but effective internal communications needs to engage with people, needs to resonate with people”, as she believes that, “rulebooks are only as good as the internal communications that surround them.”

In contrast with the high proportion of respondents believing that their organisation had a clear ethics policy and culture, only 34% were recorded as categorising their levels of trust in their employer as ‘Neutral’ whilst another 28% categorised their opinion as ‘Low’. Respondents also rated the most important factor in creating a sustainable ethical culture as being ‘Leaders who lead by example’ with a staggering 95% judging it ‘Very important’ and the remaining 5% believing it to be ‘Important’.

Suggesting that companies market their internal environment as a ‘community’, Pierre Goad, global co-head of communications at HSBC, stated his belief that the cultural change experienced at HSBC through its ‘Ask the right questions’ device has lead its staff to more actively engage with the ethical side of their roles and to not be afraid to raise their voices if they feel it necessary.

The core ideal promoted and adopted by HSBC employees, said Goad, is that; “You won’t get blamed if you try and do the right thing, and it goes wrong. However, if you do the wrong thing, or do nothing, you’re toast”.


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