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What issues are most commonly perceived with unethical business behaviour?

Corruption, company tax avoidance and misleading and deceptive advertising continue to be the top issues relating to unethical behavioural perceptions in business, according to new findings.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 19 November 2019 Corporate Counsel
Governance Institute of Australia
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The Ethics Index 2019, released last week by Governance Institute of Australia, quantifies the perceptions of adult Australians of the overall importance of ethics and what the actual level of ethical behaviour is within Australian society, examining the various sectors, organisations, occupations, issues and influences across the nation.

It found that the top issues relating to unethical behaviour in business followed the same order as 2018’s results: 62 per cent of respondents identified corruption as an ethical issue (up from 60 per cent last year), 51 per cent said company tax avoidance (down from 55 per cent) and 48 per cent said misleading and deceptive advertising (down from 52 per cent).


The top three were followed by executive pay (45 per cent), environmental responsibility (44 per cent, up from 36 per cent last year), discrimination (42 per cent) and bullying in the workplace (41 per cent).

Those who work within organisations at the most senior level continue to be seen as having the most influence on the overall ethical practices and outcomes, with the CEO, board of directors, and senior management – perhaps unsurprisingly – seen as the most influential.

Elsewhere, on the question of ethics in society, accountability continues to be the top element of importance in ensuring ethical conduct in the community (61 per cent).

This was followed by transparency (57 per cent), whistleblower protection (50 per cent), highly ethical leaders (49 per cent), a strong legal framework (42 per cent) and “strong, inquisitive media to expose unethical behaviour” (39 per cent).

The Ethics Index also found that almost two in five Australians think lawyers are unethical, company secretaries are perceived to be the most ethical in a corporation and that nine in 10 Australians see action on climate change as an ethical imperative.

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