Global Business Ethics Survey: Measuring Risk and Promoting Workplace Integrity

Maintaining integrity in the workplace is a major challenge for organizations around the world, but the likelihood of misconduct and corruption is significantly higher in some countries than in others and multinational organizations face extra difficulty in policing the workplace.

Key ECI Metrics

A median of one in three workers (33 percent) in the 13 countries surveyed said they had observed misconduct in their workplace in the previous 12 months, according to ECI’s first-ever Global Business Ethics Survey (GBES). But the survey, which builds upon ECI’s long-established and highly regarded National Business Ethics Survey® (NBES®) of U.S. workplaces, also found significant variation among countries with misconduct rates ranging from a low of 15 percent in Japan to 45 percent in Russia. Employees in Brazil and India joined Russian workers at the high end with 40 percent or more observing misconduct. In the United States, 30 percent of workers observed rules violations at work.

Pressure to Compromise Standards is a Common Bad Omen

GBES finds that employees in Brazil, India, and Russia, the three countries with the highest overall ethics risks, also reported experiencing pressure to compromise standards with greater frequency than their counterparts in the ten other countries surveyed. That’s significant because pressure is a leading indicator of misconduct both now and in the future. Nearly three-quarters (a median of 73 percent) of all public and private sector employees surveyed who felt pressure also said they witnessed misconduct where they worked. In the absence of pressure, a median of only 17 percent said they observed misconduct in their place of business.

Misconduct is More Common at Multinationals and Among Supplier Firms

The survey also identified circumstances that tend to heighten ethics and compliance risks.Employees in multinational organizations observed misconduct and experienced significantly lower pressure to compromise standards than workers at businesses and other organizations that operate within a single country. GBES finds that misconduct rates, pressure and retaliation against whistleblowers also were substantially higher at supplier companies that primarily provide goods and services to other companies than at non-suppliers, which sell primarily to consumers.In addition, the survey shows that organizational change, especially merger and acquisition activity, heightens the risks of wrongdoing and adds to the number of employees who feel pressure to violate standards.

First of a Kind Study

For more than 22 years, the NBES® has provided the only longitudinal, cross-sectional study of its kind – accurately measuring the state of ethics in US workplaces. The value of the GBES, like the U.S.-focused NBES® it is modeled upon, is that it provides business leaders, public policymakers, regulators, educators and the public with reliable insights about organizational ethics in global economies that are critical to business success.


GBES findings reflect on the viewpoints of employees in 13 countries around the world.The survey was conducted among 13,046 pre-qualified individuals from November 30 – December 31, 2015.Data collection was performed through online panels.

This report was made possible by the generous support of The Boeing Company, Center for Audit Quality, Deloitte Foundation, Walmart, Louis Berger, Edison International, Lockheed Martin and BP.

Download the 2016 GBES Report

This report is made possible in part by support from our funders:

GBES Funders