Businesses urged to review compliance and integrity processes

More than half (55%) of employees and leaders from companies around the world believe that standards of corporate integrity have stayed the same or worsened over the last 18 months, according to a survey by EY.

While 97% of respondents to the EY Global Integrity Report agree that integrity is important within their organisations, 41% say that the Covid-19 pandemic is making it more difficult to act with integrity in business dealings.

The survey, which canvassed the views of more than 4,700 employees, managers and board directors from 54 countries and territories, found that leaders are struggling to create and communicate a strong and effective culture of integrity within their business.

Andrew Gordon, EY Global forensic & integrity services leader, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on integrity standards for companies around the world. The change to ways of working throughout the pandemic has created a heightened risk of fraud and unethical behaviour. Hybrid working makes it difficult to undertake effective compliance monitoring, and fraud risk factors typically increase at a time of crisis because companies and individuals face more financial pressures.”

The survey suggests that the last 12 months have seen greater investment in integrity and compliance initiatives. 53% of responding organisations said that they have a code of conduct in place, compared with 47% 18 months ago. There is also an increase in training programs, with 46% of businesses providing regular training on relevant legal regulatory or professional requirements, compared with 38% in 2020.

However, the survey highlights that this increased investment is not being communicated effectively and senior management is often over-confident in the effectiveness of its corporate integrity programs. While 60% of board member respondents say that their organisation has communicated the importance of behaving with integrity frequently in the last 18 months, less than a third (30%) of employee respondents remember seeing any communications on the topic.

There is also a gap between the views of board members and employees in relation to awareness of policies on working from home (80% / 51%) and awareness of training on data privacy regulations (52% / 35%).

Gordon added: “Although organisations are investing more in communication and training programs, this is not enough. There is a worrying divide between investment in action and genuine change. A strong culture of integrity is vital, and businesses must review what is working and where there are issues to address.”

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