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Businesses give plenty of lip service to ethics, but you have to wonder how many really take it seriously. Corporations are awash in sensitivity training, sexual harassment prevention workshops and other endless efforts to promote ethics. Yet many of these same businesses have also contributed to the financial mess we’re in today — by promoting salary and bonus policies that emphasize profit over common sense.

The issue of ethics, or lack thereof, is exacerbated in tough economic times. It’s no surprise that insurance fraud is up across the board for the first half of 2009, according to the NICB, or that crimes like burglaries and break-ins are on the rise in even the safest communities.  I currently serve on the national ethics committee of the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), where the convergence of print and online content have blurred the line between editorial and advertisement – at a crucial time when advertising dollars are growing ever scarcer. When businesses are fighting for survival, the concept of ethics can seem like a quaint anachronism from a more profitable past.

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