Fourth Ethics Index compelling on climate change

In business and politics, trust is everything.

For the fourth year, the Governance Institute of Australia’s Ethics Index provides a powerful barometer of Australians’ ethical perception of different sectors, industries and job types within them.  

But this year, we have seen the emergence of a new and undeniably clear theme.

According to the Ethics Index, nine in ten Australians want the Federal government and organisations to take action on climate change, even if it impacts profits and job losses. About the same number of people believe Australia has an ethical obligation to transition to renewable energy, with over half of them describing this obligation as ‘urgent’.

These results send a clear and compelling message to the government and business sector  climate change is now an ethical imperative for many Australians and those who ignore this, risk losing credibility and trust.

Who do Australians think can make a difference and influence ethical practices, like action against climate change? According to the survey, it’s those in senior roles who hold the ability to make an impact  CEOs, non-executive directors and senior management. Those further down the ladder, such as the general workforce and activists, are seen to have the least influence.

The respondents to this survey overwhelmingly felt that accountability was the best way to ensure ethical conduct. And it probably makes sense that transparency and whistleblower protection also rated high, as key mechanisms that enable accountability.

For some sectors and professionals, trust continues to be a major issue. On the heels of the Royal Commission, the financial services sector again displays the worst ethical behaviour according to the results, followed closely by media, large corporations and government. High executive salaries rated as the most ethically important issue for the banking and finance sector with 74 per cent of Australians saying it’s unethical to offer a CEO salary of more than $3m per annum.

However, there are professions and sectors living up to Australians’ expectations of ethical behaviour. The sectors rated most ethical are health (topping the ethical sectors table for the fourth year in a row), followed by education, charities and not-for-profit organisations, and agriculture.

When rating the ethical behaviour of people we are in close personal contact with, most respondents rated their GP the highest, followed by their pharmacist. In stark contrast are politicians  federal, state and local — who tied in last position.

And interestingly within our community, company secretaries are perceived to be the most ethical occupation within corporate organisations.

I urge you to look at this year’s Governance Institute of Australia Ethics Index. It’s rich with fascinating insights across a broad range of issues and topics. Insights that I believe everyone must heed.

Find out more about the Ethics Index

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