Rules are not enough

Leo Martin, director of leading business ethics advisors GoodCorporation comments on the News of the World hacking scandal:

“The conduct of the News of the World (NOTW) has clearly crossed the line this week and revealed that the presence of rules is not enough to ensure ethical business behaviour.

“This is a problem for business as a whole, not just the News of the World.  Many large companies employ a sizeable compliance department that ticks a lot of boxes in a bid to ensure responsible behaviour.  But, as the hacking scandal has shown, it is debatable whether legal compliance on its own is enough to ensure ethical business conduct.  Ironically many compliance departments spend more time assessing the likely risk of prosecution rather than checking whether or not the rules are being broken.  Often battening down the hatches in one area while turning a blind eye in another. Consequently there is often a failure to comply, but not usually by enough to attract the attention of either regulators or prosecutors.

“What businesses need, is to create an ethical business culture where it is instinctive to do the right thing, rather than playing cat and mouse with risk and regulation.  As reaction to the News of the World scandal has shown, the public has no problem distinguishing between ethical and unethical behaviour.  Business needs to demonstrate that it can make the same call.”

Posted: March 2011


Notes to Editors:

  1. Michael Littlechild is available for interviews, briefings or written comment
  2. GoodCorporation is a leading adviser in the field of business ethics, specialising in the assessment of responsible management and anti-corruption practices.  For further information visit

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