EDITORIAL: Taking an ethical approach to PR

Fishburn Hedges has announced the launch this week of a corporate ethics unit, which will audit the extent to which clients’ ethical practices are communicated to their external and internal stakeholders and advise on communicating these practices better.

Fishburn Hedges has announced the launch this week of a corporate

ethics unit, which will audit the extent to which clients’ ethical

practices are communicated to their external and internal stakeholders

and advise on communicating these practices better.



A survey undertaken in conjunction with the Institute of Business

Ethics, and released to coincide with the launch, indicates that the PR

industry does indeed have a role to play. More than half of the 178 top

500 companies surveyed revealed that they had codes of conduct or ethics

but failed to communicate the fact to their staff and customers. While

paradoxically, three-quarters of these corporate companies said that the

rationale for having codes in place was to safeguard their

reputations.



On this issue, the UK lags about five years behind the US where

corporate ethics are enshrined in legislation. However, the UK could

follow suit.



We already have the public interest disclosure act which offers

protection to whistle-blowers. There are already a handful of companies

which specialise in corporate ethics, but PR practitioners, both

in-house and consultancy, need to gain control of the process. By

failing to communicate their ethical practices to staff, companies

immediately risk failing to meet their own standards through the

ignorance of their employees.



There is a concern that by disclosing the terms a code of conduct, firms

risk being pilloried for any failure to comply. But this is a risk that

needs to be taken. The communication of a code of conduct can lay a

valuable framework for handling potential crises. And, as The Body Shop

has shown, ethical positioning can be turned into a positive platform.



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