Concern about business ethics growing, survey reveals

By Stephen Brown
14 Jul 2011

The first global survey on business ethics has found that research on the area is growing rapidly worldwide, including in emerging economies.

The results of the "Global Survey on Business Ethics in Teaching, Training and Research" were presented at the Global Ethics Forum, which took place at the United Nations in Geneva recently.

The survey was started in 2009 and it sought to provide a global and comparative view on economic and business ethics as a field of teaching, training and research. It looked at the terminology used to refer to business ethics, topics covered in training, as well as issues covered in formal academic teaching.

The study was conducted in nine regions, each with a regional coordinator, and using 70 national coordinators.

"Business ethics as an academic field, or as an area of study, is relative[ly] new," said Deon Rossouw, the CEO of the Ethics Institute of South Africa, who led and presented the research.
"We wanted to find out the state of affairs around the world in this relatively new field of study," he said.

One issue highlighted by Rossouw was the use by respondents of "competing terminology" for the activities covered by the survey. In some parts of the world, respondents preferred to use terms other than "business ethics", such as "corporate social responsibility", "corporate responsibility", "corporate sustainability" or "corporate social investment".

"It seems the ' E' word [for ethics] is still not always mentioned in corporate circles," said Rossouw.

At the same session of the forum, Vasanthi Srinivasan, Director of the Centre for Corporate Governance and Citizenship at the Indian Institute of Management, in Bangalore, India, said that every country in the Asian region has experienced a "significant transition" in the last 20 years. "There is some discourse happening around these issues," she stated. "However, the deeper questions around some issues need serious attention."

The nine regions for the study were: North America including Mexico, Latin America, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Central Asia, South and South East Asia, East Asia with China, Japan and Korea, and Oceania.

The Global Ethics Forum is a project of the Globethics.net Foundation, a global network that promotes the exchange of insights and research on ethics and values, and whose International Secretariat is based in Geneva.

* More information about the Global Ethics Forum: www.globethics.net/gef

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