EY: Global businesses divided over COVID-19 impact on company ethics

As businesses start to look beyond the COVID-19 crisis, EY (Ernst&Young) Global Integrity Report 2020 has revealed that businesses are divided over the implications of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic for company ethics.




The findings are part of a survey of almost 3,000 respondents from 33 countries including Nigeria up to February 2020, analyzing the ethical challenges companies face in turbulent times.



An additional 600 employees across all levels of seniority were surveyed at the height of the COVID-19 crisis in April in companies across six countries – China, Germany, Italy, the UK, India and the US.



According to the report, the majority (90%) of respondents surveyed during the crisis believe that disruption, as a result of COVID-19, poses a risk to ethical business conduct.



However, there is a concerning disparity between boards, senior management and employees on the implications for compliance. While 43 per cent of board members and 37 per cent of senior managers surveyed believe the pandemic could lead to change and better business ethics, only 21 per cent of junior employees appear to agree.



In a statement, the professional services firm said: “The survey highlights that signs of an integrity disconnect at different levels within organisations were evident even before the pandemic with more than half of board members (55%) believing management demonstrate professional integrity, but only 37 per cent of junior employees sharing the same sentiment. In addition, over half of board members (55%) believe there are managers in their organization who would sacrifice integrity for short term gain.”



The statement quoted EY Global Forensic & Integrity Services Leader, Andrew Gordon, as saying “we are in the middle of the fastest transformation the global economy has ever experienced. Extreme pressures can lead to moral and ethical decisions that organizations must respond to at speed and under increased scrutiny. Leaders must have confidence that their employees at all levels will act with integrity.



“Yet, tone from the top is important, and we can clearly see that some employees do not have faith that their boards and senior leaders will be making the right choices. Now is the time to ensure that leaders act in a way that demonstrates to all their stakeholders a commitment to doing the right thing now, next and beyond.”



He further stated: “Lack of trust and integrity was already a challenge before COVID-19, but the pandemic has heightened some of these risks.



What is important now is how organizations deal with this risk, what action they take, and what frameworks they put in place.”



Also, commenting on the survey’s findings that lack of data integrity continue to hinder business efforts, EY Nigeria Forensic & Integrity Services Leader, Linus Osita Okeke, said: “It is worrisome that many company personnel indicated lack of knowledge or awareness about data protection. This underscores the need for organisations to embark on robust awareness campaign on data protection, especially in the light of emerging data protection regulation such as Nigeria Data Protection Regulation 2019.”




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