The Ethics Study 2023

The Ethics Study is our bi-annual global research report on global leaders’ perspectives on organizational ethics conducted by Principia in partnership with INvolve, the International Chamber of Commerce, and Interbrand.

Key findings

Less than half of major companies are equipped to deal with critical ethical challenges

  • The top two risks likely to trigger an ethical crisis in 2023 are identified as “geopolitical instability and conflict” and “complicity in wrongdoing by clients/customers”.
  • However, organizations’ ethical commitments are failing to keep pace with risks, with only 17% and 10% of leaders focusing their commitments in these areas.
  • This mismatch is reflected in the fact that only 43% of leaders believe that companies in their sector are equipped to deal with critical ethical challenges.

Ethics is a differentiator

  • For businesses taking ethics seriously there are rewards beyond risk mitigation, with 85% of respondents agreeing that ethics is a competitive differentiator in their industry.
  • Leading organizations are already starting to integrate ethics into branding and marketing (83%), recruitment and retention (79%) and growth strategy (77%).
  • Brand, trust, and reputation is the leading motivation for such investment.

Fatigue, reduced resilience, and greater anger are driving expectations

  • The ethical environment has become more challenging, a trend which has accelerated due to global experiences of Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine.
  • This challenge is reflected in the fact that 85% of leaders agree that organizations are having to address more complex ethical questions than they were three years ago.
  • Businesses—and business leaders—are facing expectations that they have a role in addressing an increasing range of social and economic challenges.

Looking for our previous Ethics Study?

Our 2021 Ethics Study on ethical and responsible business was conducted by Principia in partnership with Clifford Chance, the International Chamber of Commerce, INvolve, GlobeScan and the Institute of Business Ethics

About the Research:

The study presents perspectives from some of the world’s most prominent business leaders on the importance of ethical business, exploring in-depth findings along with case studies of how leading organizations are responding.

The Ethics Study is based on two main strands of research conducted between August 2022 and January 2023:

First, a series of 32 one-on-one interviews with senior business leaders from different industries and geographies, as well as academics and experts on ethics in business.

Second, a quantitative survey (consisting of rating scales and multiple-choice questions) of 162 business leaders from around the world, in different industries. Survey participants were drawn from the networks of our partners at the International Chamber of Commerce, INvolve and Interbrand, as well as clients of Principia.