Nordic Business Ethics survey is coming again!

Last spring we launched the first ever Nordic Business Ethics survey. The results gained a lot of attention by various medias and ever since we have been travelling across the Nordics to talk about the results. We prepared a video to address the Nordic Business Ethics Survey 2019 results. In the end of the video we will also share some news about the 2020 survey which will be launched in April. Watch the video or read a short summary below.

Are Nordic employees blue-eyed?

We start our survey by asking whether we in Nordic countries are a bit of “blue eyed” when it comes to business ethics. Based on the survey responses, this seems to be a good question.

The reason why is quite natural: Have you ever met a person in business life who would say that ethical and respectful behaviour is not important? I have not. Also in our survey over 93% of responded that “Ethical business practices (e.g. transparent manners, equal treatment or people and ethical leadership style) is more important to me than other factors such as salary and benefits, career path and job description.” At the same time, 83% answered that they had witnessed misconduct or unethical behaviour during the past 12 months.

Well, it’s not a surprise that misconduct happens. That’s life and no perfect organisation exists. However, how many of us would be willing to admit that my behaviour could be interpreted as unethical? The main categories for unethical behaviour included disrespectful behaviour, favouritism, passive leadership, discrimination and bullying. Could it be possible that something that you did during the past year was perceived unfair by someone around you? That’s a question we all need to think about.

Nordic people do not speak up on ethical concerns

The next interesting question is what do people do when they face misconduct? Do we intervene the situation by facing the people involved? Do we bring the issue to the management attention? Do we use the company provided whistleblowing tools to raise up our voice? The most common reaction in all Nordic countries is to do nothing. For example, in Finland 55 % of respondents did not intervene or speak up. This number can be a strong indicator that the psychological safety is not there. The recipe for a healthy organization is: “Good news is no news. No news is bad news. Bad news is good news.” Remember that if you don’t hear about issues in your organization it does not mean that there are no issues. It means that for a reason or another people are not willing to speak up about them.

Ethical struggles

In Sweden and Norway, most of the companies have already Codes of Conduct in place, wheres in Finland only 30% of the respondents were able to acknowledge that their employers had one. Also in Finland employees receive less ethics training than companies in Sweden and Norway.

At the same time, every fifth Finnish employee admits that s/he has been put in a situation at work where s/he has had to make ethical compromises.

Ethical blindness

Culture corrupts and many ethical scandals are a result of ethical blindness. This is a situation where compromising ethical values become so normal, that one cannot see it anymore. It is the role of leaders to make sure that the incentives and measures in daily work are realistically achievable, and that what gets measured is not only what is being done, but also how the end result is being achieved. Only a few organizations (9 %) have ethical considerations included in their incentive structures. You get what you measure – you get what you pay for. If bonuses are paid and promotions are obtained by cutting corners, ethics training and colorful code of conduct brochures will not make much difference.

We have a lot to learn and improve, but there are certainly many good organizations to learn from as well. What is certain is that the expectations on ethical businesses will continue to increase, which in the long run is a win for all. In the short term, however, it will require some investment.

Stay tuned for the 2020 survey

Find these results interesting? You can access the 2019 survey in our website. We are currently analysing the 2020 survey results and will launch the survey in April 2020. Make sure to sign up as our member to receive the newsletter and the launch invitation!