Transnational Research Associates


The Institute of Business Ethics: Analysis of a Well-Designed Site


[Art Madsen, M.Ed.]


There are relatively few cross-disciplinary websites that deal so thoroughly with the broad outlines of ethics in business, whether the organization being targeted is technically oriented, commercially focused, or is an industrial or manufacturing enterprise. Over the centuries, the United States has often derived many valid insights into how business should operate from its European colleagues. Keeping these points in mind, there seems no good reason not to at least glance at this site with an analytical and hopeful eye. In this instance, the British have established an Institute of Business Ethics (IBE) that can readily serve as a beacon of guidance and advice for many types of American firms. Indeed, they use ‘the best’ in web design and in site content to communicate their message effectively.


            The IBE splashes an enthusiastic welcome across its home page, a visually appealing gesture that is in true European style.  Beneath the banner is a simple and quite readable explanation of the IBE’s purpose and mission.  The surfer learns that in both political and academic circles the social responsibility component of ethics is being promoted prominently worldwide and that the mission of the IBE is to maintain efficient company operations while ensuring the overall welfare of society and society’s values.  More concretely, the IBE provides a platform for finding pragmatic solutions to current ethical problems within firms, and offers a wide range of publications from some of Britain’s most eminent ethicists. It also sponsors ongoing seminars and colloquia for discussion, among several parties, of major ethical issues and dilemmas in business. Finally, the soft pastels on the opening page literally lure the reader into learning that the IBE is international in nature, thus tacitly confirming that the United States, as well as EEC member nations and other countries around the world, can, in fact, learn how business should be conducted professionally and within the limits of standard practice, international law and global decency.  In the final paragraph on the opening page there are intra-textual hyperlinks that direct the surfer to similar ethics organizations in North America, Europe and Asia.  In brief, the opening page, it must be stated, is quite light on graphics and pictorials.  This holds true for the entire site, one that seems to project an aura of quiet professionalism and dignity.


            On the left hand border of the IBE’s home page. There are seven extremely useful links.  This section of the page fortunately does not rely on frames, a feature that has been found, in mass cyber surveys, to be shunned by most viewers. Each link leads to a well-furbished subsidiary site with useful and illuminating information pertaining to the full spectrum of activities and services offered by the IBE.


            The first of these simply identifies the staff of the IBE, again in soft lavender pastels.  The cyber-browser learns the IBE is made up of distinguished business executives and professionals from the diversified worlds of finance, commerce, communications, manufacturing, and cybernetics. 


The second link contains the real meat and potatoes of this site. The IBE offers an actual Code of Business Ethics with practical suggestions on (1) how to develop an effective code within one’s own corporate setting, (2) steps for implementation of this Code once developed, and (3) common sense rules of conduct.  These segments are all target-linked on the same subsidiary page so that the surfer can click any of the above topics for a convenient look at content material. At this point in viewing the site, the information offered on employees in relation to ethical standards is, in my estimation, one of the most insightful segments of the IBE’s cyber-presence.  How a company uses its employees, and in what capacities, frequently reflects on the degree to which it practices proper business ethics.


The third link is an updated calendar of events.  The viewer is pleased to note that the IBE is actually projecting events into December of this year; indeed, this site is active and has not been abandoned for months or years as so many are.  Melinda Johnson will speak at a luncheon, for example, on December 10th, focusing her remarks on “Ethical Issues in Procurement.”


If a corporation or organization wishes to subscribe to the IBE’s membership roster, its name will be featured in IBE networking programs. Additionally, member firms will be entitled to a wide range of special services and event attendance privileges.


The publications’ link is next, and includes impressively written executive summaries on subsidiary links for major new books and articles.  Some of these books are fairly pricey and others are affordable, even when converting prices from Pounds Sterling. My favorite title deals with a firm’s “reputation risk” and how to deal with it properly and ethically.


The final subsidiary links feature newsletter excerpts and progress reports on IBE activities some of which, according to the Institute’s Director, referring to small businesses, is to “raise the profile of ethics within the sector…” Of course, the IBE is dedicated to serve firms and organizations of all shapes and sizes in Britain and abroad.  As was stated at the outset, American firms could profit substantially from reviewing this well-designed web site, participating in IBE activities whenever possible, and subscribing to its valuable member services.