“Integrity is a difficult concept to define, as companies face different ethical dilemmas. It’s about making the intangible tangible, about committing to the interdependence of business and society by embedding integrity into the culture and behaviors of the organization,” says Katharina Weghmann, Partner, Forensic & Integrity Services, Ernst & Young GmbH. A progressive integrity agenda goes beyond restrictive compliance (what the law prevents); opportunistic compliance (what the law allows); and avoidance of litigation.
The 2022 report shows only a third (33%) of respondents say behaving with ethical standards is an important characteristic of integrity, while half (50%) cite compliance with laws, regulations and codes of conduct. And even when it comes to compliance, the report’s findings show more willingness among the most senior company ranks to act outside the rules.
“Integrity isn’t an easy topic,” says Jon Feig, EY Americas and EY US-Central Region Leader, Forensic & Integrity Services. “The integrity agenda rests on organizational intent and actual behavior. A wrong decision for the right reasons is still a wrong decision if it fails ethical values.”
Management should be under no illusion that creating a culture of integrity is a quick fix. Although organizations are investing more in communication and training programs, such efforts are not enough. While 60% of board members say that their organization has communicated about the importance of behaving with integrity frequently in the last 18 months, only 30% of employees remember it.
“Organizational culture is dynamic and takes far longer to change than rules and regulations,” says Maryam Hussain, Partner, Forensic & Integrity Services, Ernst & Young LLP, United Kingdom.