Banking was rated as the industry having the highest ethical
standards, followed by utilities, and drugs, pharmaceuticals and
cosmetics, according to a Touche Ross survey "Ethics in American
"Although these three are among the most highly regulated
industries, respondents say that legislation is the least effective
way of encouraging ethical business behavior," said Ramez M. Hakim,
managing partner of the Touche Ross Oklahoma practice.
"Rather, they point to the adoption of business codes of ethics
as the most effective way. Indeed, almost half of the respondents
feel that the main reason for high ethical standards in a profession
is that profession's own standards and accreditation," Hakim said.
Touche Ross undertook the survey to learn the opinions of key
U.S. leaders on current ethical issues in American business. The
questionnaire was sent in September to 8,180 officers and top
executives of corporations with $500 million or more in annual
sales, deans of business schools and members of Congress. The
survey results represent the responses of 1,082 returned completed
Ninety-four percent of the respondents, representing all
occupational, professional and industry groups, think the business
community is troubled by ethical problems today.
Ninety-five percent of corporate directors or officers, 99
percent of deans of business schools and 77 percent of the members
of Congress responding to the survey agreed. Most respondents also
believed that high ethical standards actually strengthen the
competitive position of a business enterprise.
The most striking conclusion of the survey was the majority of
respondents who believed that a business enterprise actually
strengthens its competitive position by maintaining high ethical
standards, Hakim said.
The survey found that those who tend to agree most with this
view are the older respondents who are corporate directors and
officers, deans, bankers, engineers and accountants. Only 41
members of Congress agreed and 14 percent of the respondents said a
company with high ethical standards is a weaker competitor, while 23
percent say that the ethical standards of a company have no effect
on its competitive position.
Respondents were almost evenly split when asked what has been
the most destructive to American business ethics. Decay in cultural
and social institutions was frequently mentioned, but increased
concentration on short-term earnings was mentioned almost as often. …