What Would You Do?

25 November, 2021

According to The Ethics Index 2021 – a survey of 1,000 people’s attitudes to ethical conduct across society – our perception of Australia as an ethical society has decreased compared to that of 2020. This drop in perception of ethical behaviour has been recorded across most industries, occupations and sectors, and is likely due to increased debate around the pandemic.

COVID-19:  The ethics of lockdowns,  vaccinations,  and the return to the office  

“Last year, we placed vast amounts of trust in our governments, scientists and health and emergency service workers during the initial waves of lockdown – and our trust was rewarded as we saw, in many cases, COVID-19 numbers settling, lockdown lifting and the resumption of most activities. The Ethics Index skyrocketed to a five-year high of 52.”

“However, 2021 has been a very different year. We have seen major fluctuations in approaches to managing the virus, stronger debate around when to lockdown – and when to open up, and we were all thrown by a new variant of the virus. It has been a tumultuous and anxious locked down year with greater uncertainty. It seems this is reflected in a dip in the latest Ethics Index which has dropped to 45.”

Most – and least – ethical occupations and sectors 

Holding strong this year, the top three occupations for perceived ethical behaviour are fire services (net score 85), nurses (80), ambulance services (79).
In fifth place, GPs registered a fall after a strong year in 2020, dropping from 80 to 71.

At the bottom of the list for ethical behaviour are federal politicians (-22, down from -3), real estate agents (-14, down from -2), directors of foreign companies operating in Australia (-12, down from -4). Lawyers, state and local politicians and directors of foreign companies operating in Australia also sit in the bottom 10, and all saw drops compared to last year.

Corruption,  influence  and executive pay:  Top ethical issues for corporate Australia 

Corruption continues to be the top issue relating to unethical behaviour in business (with 59% of respondents stating it as the top issue). Misleading and deceptive advertising increased from 45% to 51% to become the second leading issue, and company tax avoidance is the third top issue at 47%.

What next? 

The biggest ethical challenge in the next 12 months is expected to be balancing freedom of movement and individual liberties with ongoing efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, ie: mask wearing, social distancing, lockdowns, vaccination passports (54%, up from 44% in 2020).

Climate change is the top third future ethical challenge, after balancing the challenges of COVID-19, and increasing local manufacturing. Most Australians feel there is an ethical obligation for organisations to act on climate change, even if it reduces profits (87%), results in job losses (88%) or lower jobs in the future (88%).

Via Governance Institute of Australia, 17 November 2021. Read the full article here

Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership’s programs include the 2 day Executive Ethics, 6 day Executive Colloquium and year-long Vincent Fairfax Fellowship. We also deliver online and tailored corporate programs. Find the right program for you. They are all held under the Chatham House Rule to encourage genuine and open debate, and allow participants to candidly discuss sometimes sensitive issues in private while allowing the topic and nature of the debate to be made public, and contribute to a broader conversation. The alumni program offers ongoing leadership development support and a lifelong connection with Cranlana.

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