Workplace Ethics Challenges Vary in Intensity Among Major Economies, ECI Finds

ECI's Finding on Pressure to compromise standards

​Maintaining integrity in the workplace is a major challenge for organizations around the world, but the likelihood of misconduct and corruption is significantly higher in some countries than in others and multinational organizations face extra difficulty in policing the workplace, the Ethics & Compliance Initiative (ECI) says in a new report.

A median of one in three workers (33 percent) in the 13 countries surveyed said they had observed misconduct in their workplace in the previous 12 months, according to ECI’s first-ever Global Business Ethics Survey™ (GBES™).  But the survey, which builds upon ECI’s long-established and highly regarded National Business Ethics Survey ® (NBES®) of U.S. workplaces, also found significant variation among countries with misconduct rates ranging from a low of 15 percent in Japan to 45 percent in Russia.  Employees in Brazil and India joined Russian workers at the high end with 40 percent or more observing misconduct.  In the United States, 30 percent of workers observed rules violations at work.

"GBES™ shows that workplace misconduct is a constant challenge in every culture and every country," ECI CEO Patricia J. Harned said

Nicole Greene, Vice President, Marketing and Communications

Pressure to Compromise Standards is a Common Bad Omen
GBES™ finds that employees in Brazil, India, and Russia, the three countries with the highest overall ethics risks, also reported experiencing pressure to compromise standards with greater frequency than their counterparts in the ten other countries surveyed. That’s significant because pressure is a leading indicator of misconduct both now and in the future.  Nearly three-quarters (a median of 73 percent) of all public and private sector employees surveyed who felt pressure also said they witnessed misconduct where they worked. In the absence of pressure, a median of only 17 percent said they observed misconduct in their place of business.

“GBES™ shows that workplace misconduct is a constant challenge in every culture and every country,” ECI CEO Patricia J. Harned said.  But Harned added that “organizations that commit energy and resources through ethics and compliance programs and a commitment to a diverse ethical culture are able to reduce misconduct, minimize feelings of pressure, persuade workers to report wrongdoing when it occurs, and limit retaliation against whistleblowers.  Experience shows that committed organizations can and do build cultures in which integrity fosters ethical decision-making among employees.”

Misconduct is More Common at Multinationals and Among Supplier Firms
The survey also identified circumstances that tend to heighten ethics and compliance risks.  Employees in multinational organizations observed misconduct and experienced significantly lower pressure to compromise standards than workers at businesses and other organizations that operate within a single country. GBES™ finds that misconduct rates, pressure and retaliation against whistleblowers also were substantially higher at supplier companies that primarily provide goods and services to other companies than at non-suppliers, which sell primarily to consumers.  In addition, the survey shows that organizational change, especially merger and acquisition activity, heightens the risks of wrongdoing and adds to the number of employees who feel pressure to violate standards. 

First of a Kind Study
For more than 22 years, the NBES® has provided the only longitudinal, cross-sectional study of its kind – accurately measuring the state of ethics in US workplaces.  The value of the GBES™, like the U.S.-focused NBES® it is modeled upon, is that it provides business leaders, public policymakers, regulators, educators and the public with reliable insights about organizational ethics in global economies that are critical to business success.

GBES™ is made possible in part by the generous donations from organizations that are committed to improving how business is conducted—both nationally and internationally.

“Ensuring business integrity wherever we are located in the world requires understanding of global workplace ethics issues,” said Ellen Martin, The Boeing Company’s Vice-President for Ethics and Business Conduct.

The funders noted that the study, conducted by ECI’s research arm, the Ethics Research Center, is the logical extension of ECI’s long-standing commitment to research on organizational ethics.

“The GBES™ provides useful insights that can help both public and private organizations around the world to work toward integrity in the workplace,” said Cindy Fornelli, Executive Director of the Center for Audit Quality.

Glenn Stastny, Deloitte Audit Partner and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, Deloitte LLP, speaking for the Deloitte Foundation, believes GBES™ will play an ongoing role in organizational ethics and compliance efforts as well as ethics education by establishing benchmarks and identifying trends in markets around the world.

 “We are excited by the long-term possibilities of GBES™,” Stastny said. “This type of research, conducted regularly, will assist us in understanding where we are, where we are going, and where organizations need to focus to build a more ethical future.”

GBES™ findings reflect on the viewpoints of employees in 13 countries around the world.  The survey was conducted among 13,046 pre-qualified individuals from November 30 – December 31, 2015.  Data collection was performed through online panels. 

This report was made possible by the generous support of The Boeing Company, Center for Audit Quality, Deloitte Foundation, Walmart, Louis Berger, Edison International, Lockheed Martin and BP.

About the Ethics & Compliance Initiative
The Ethics & Compliance Initiative (ECI) empowers its members across the globe to operate their businesses at the highest levels of integrity. ECI provides leading ethics and compliance research and best practices, networking opportunities and certification to its membership, which represents more than 450 organizations across a range of industries worldwide.  The study was conducted by the Ethics Research Center, the research arm of the ECI.  For more information, please visit

Source: Ethics and Compliance Initiative (ECI)

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About Ethics and Compliance Initiative

The Ethics & Compliance Initiative (ECI) is a non-profit organization that empowers its members across the globe to operate their businesses at the highest levels of integrity.

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