9 November 2022

Ethics and public relations: doing the right thing  

“Ethics can be viewed as a guide to ‘doing the right thing’, in the context of organisational and personal values, shifting societal norms and legal requirements.” 

Richard Bailey, FCIPR, MCIPR

“As PR professionals we are the ethics guardians of our organisations. We regularly face difficult ethical choices.”

Mark W. McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA 

PR and ethics 

How do we decide what is ethical? If ethics are ‘doing the right thing’ – by whose standards can we consider what is right? There are many interpretations of what can be considered ethical conduct. 

However, as public relations practitioners, we are bound by and abide by professional standards and a Code of Conduct. The two main PR bodies in the UK – the CIPR and the PRCA  – each have their own Code. The CIPR’s Code includes commitments to the “highest standards of professional endeavour, integrity, confidentiality, financial propriety and personal conduct,” along with dealing “honestly and fairly in business with employers, employees, clients, fellow professionals, other professions and the public.” 

This allows our clients to be assured that our work and practice is of the highest standards, with their best interest always at the forefront of everything that we do. 

Business and ethics 

But what of business ethics outside of public relations? 

The Institute of Business Ethics talks about ethical conduct in business as: 

“Business ethics is the application of ethical values to business behaviour. Business ethics is relevant both to the conduct of individuals and to the conduct of the organisation as a whole. It applies to any and all aspects of business conduct, from boardroom strategies and how companies treat their employees and suppliers to sales techniques and accounting practices.” 

The Institute of Business Ethics

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, the business world has been transformed. For so many people, the global lockdowns brought business closures, resulting in furloughs, redundancies, bankruptcies, and hybrid working when businesses operated once more. 

Businesses and organisations have adapted – and continue to do so – to meet these rapidly changing times. Corporate responsibility is now strongly tasked with the wellbeing of Covid-weary employees, along with matching customers’ new expectations, post-pandemic, all the while continuing to acclimatise to these ‘new world’ challenges. 

Business and social responsibility 

Placing ethics and integrity in the heart of business practice, we can also look to a picture of outward social responsibility – environmental, social and governance (ESG) are important, and with the climate crisis rapidly becoming a global conversation that requires urgent action. Consumers are looking to brands for socially responsible leadership that are both sustainable and environmentally sound in practice and investments. As Sphera said

“Companies with strong ESG performance have demonstrated higher returns on their investments, lower risks and better resiliency during a crisis.”

If your business would benefit from support or advice on how to integrate your ethical values into your communications strategy, please message us via the contact form here or call us on 0845 625 0820 for an informal chat. 

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