NEW HAVEN, Conn. --- Most Americans give corporate America poor
or failing grades for honesty and ethics and rate the country's
business leadership as poor during this time of economic crisis,
according to a Marist Poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus.
Among the American public, 76% believe that corporate America's
moral compass is pointed in the wrong direction, 58% of corporate
executives agree; and a majority of Americans, and two-thirds of
executives, gave a grade of D or F in ethical matters to the financial
and investment industry.
The poll of 2071 adults and 110 high-level business leaders also
showed that Americans believe personal financial gain and career
advancement drive the business decisions of executives while concern
for employees and public good seldom factors into corporate decisions.
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"Today, America faces a serious problem with a financial crisis
caused in no small part by greed -- the public lacks confidence in our
financial system, and in much of 'corporate America,'" said Carl Anderson,
Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. "This confidence cannot and
will not be restored until American executives and companies choose to
be guided by a moral compass in their business decisions. Only a strong
commitment to ethical business practices on the part of executives and
the companies they lead can restore America's confidence in its
Along with Wall Street and financial industry executives,
politicians received "poor" marks in ethics from a majority of
Americans, and a majority of executives. Doctors and accountants
received the best marks for ethics among both Americans and executives.
More than 90% of Americans and 90% of executives see career
advancement, personal financial gain, increasing profits, or gaining
competitive advantage as the primary factors that corporate executives
take into account when making business decisions. Only 31% of
Americans, and 32% of executives believe the "public good" is a strong
Interestingly, three-quarters of Americans, and more than nine in
ten executives think that a business can be both successful and
ethical. However, while 74% of Americans and 86% of executives believe
people should have the same ethical standards in business as in their
personal lives, more than half of executives, and nearly three quarters
of Americans, think that most people miss that mark.
The survey indicated that the public and executives believe that
religion provides a good ethical standard for doing business. Nearly
two-thirds of Americans believe that religious beliefs should
significantly influence executives' business decisions. More than
two-thirds of executives agree.
The study was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus and conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion; 2,071 adults nationwide were interviewed from January 25 through February 3, 2009. The data from corporate executives was collected between January 26 and February 5, 2009. The results for Americans are statistically significant at ±2.5%.
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