The state of ethics & compliance in the workspace: A Look at global trends

Over the years, research conducted by the Ethics & Compliance Initiative (“ECI”) has found out that the pressure employees may experience to compromise their organization’s ethics standards, policies, or the law is linked with an increased likelihood to observe misconduct. Therefore, ECI regularly conducts its Global Business Ethics Survey (“GBES”). Recently, ECI has published the 16th edition of the GBES: The State of Ethics & Compliance in the Workplace – A Look at Global Trends.

The 2021 GBES collected data from employees in 10 countries: United States, Mexico, Brazil, France, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom, China, India, and Russia. Collectively, these data shall provide business leaders of both US-based corporations and multinationals with key insights into the workplace environments in these jurisdictions that can assist in determining what steps they might take to strengthen their firm’s ethical cultures. The report would show that high-quality compliance and ethics programs (hereinafter “HQPs”) would make a positive difference in promoting strong ethical cultures.

The report also concludes that the vast majority of firms would have strong ethical cultures despite the fact that a high percentage of companies would not have achieved this milestone yet. The report also states that there would be a combined global median of only 14% of firms with strong ethical cultures. Surprisingly, France would trail other countries with only 8% of French companies having strong ethical cultures.

According to ECI, the findings of the report illustrate that employee conduct around the world has been drastically impacted against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, a significant percentage of employees would not be working in an organization with an effective E&C program. Lastly, higher management levels would be associated with increased rates of pressure, observed misconduct and retaliation.

Finally, the 16th GBES reports that pressure to bend the rules would have increased sharply in the United States over the last three years and that it would have achieved alarmingly high levels in many other countries. Therefore, ECI observes that “[t]he time is now to make E&C a priority.” To do so, the ECI recommends businesses, regardless of size and industry, invest in E&C programs. Accordingly, the report lists several recommendations with which companies can counteract these findings.