Institute of Business Ethics

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Established in 1986, the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE) is a charity based in London which aims to “encourage high standards of business behaviour based on ethical values”.1 The IBE originally had a strong Christian base.2 Following the Institute’s reconstitution of its charitable status in 2000, it has fewer religious connections.3
The IBE employed nine people in 2015, and had an annual income of £771,400.4
In 2011 IBE reported to have around 120 corporate subscribers, mainly businesses but also professional associations. Members receive access to networking events with talks from experts on ethical issues. These are conducted under Chatham House rules.5
In 2017, the IBE’s Director was Philippa Foster Back who has been in post since 2001. 6

Relationship with the Tobacco Industry


In 2017, British American Tobacco (BAT) and Japan Tobacco International were IBE subscribers.7
Imperial Tobacco was a subscriber in 2011,8 but in 2017 IBE confirmed that Imperial was no longer a subscriber.9

Corporate Social Responsibility

Tobacco companies, in particular BAT, first engaged with IBE in the 1990s.10
This was a time of increased statutory backed tobacco regulation, and the World Health Organization had started negotiations to create the world’s first public health Treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.1112
In the United States, Philip Morris became involved in an IBE project aimed at providing “city youth with values and paths of opportunity”.13 An internal Philip Morris memo, dated May 1990, outlined the company’s plans to send a representative to the project’s regular business breakfast meetings, and recommended on a broader note “…Philip Morris should be involved in projects that are supported by large New York companies because this reaffirms our commitment to the city”.13
In the United Kingdom, IBE tried to gain BAT’s support as soon as the Institute was launched in 1986,14 but BAT consistently declined requests to donate or join IBE events in the 1980s and early 1990s.15161718
In the late 1990s, BAT softened its approach toward the Institute. For example, in 1998 BAT shared its Code of Conduct with the Institute and completed an IBE survey on ethics.1019
BAT was fully aware that issues around Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) were gaining prominence,20 and was expecting “…renewed attacks on multinational companies”.21 Following an endorsement of IBE by the Confederation of British Industry, who referred to the Institute “…the most important external advisory body for UK business on code-related issues”,22 BAT included IBE on a list of potential attendees to take part in BAT “stakeholder dialogue forums” on CSR.23
BAT’s 2001 CSR report identified IBE’s Executive Director, Ken Rushton, as a potential candidate for BAT’s social reporting audit panel.2425
BAT’s 2003 Social Report was developed “with help from the Institute of Business Ethics”.26

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  1. Institute of Business Ethics, About IBE & Supporting Us, IBE web site, undated, accessed February 2017
  2. Institute of Business Ethics, A brief history, IBE website, undated, accessed February 2017
  3. Institute of Business Ethics, Advisory Council, IBE website, undated, accessed February 2017
  4. Charity Commission, Institute of Business Ethics 2015 Financials, Charity Commission website, 2016, accessed February 2017
  5. Institute of Business Ethics, Corporate subscriber benefits, IBE website, accessed November 2011
  6. Institute of Business Ethics, Our Team, IBE website, accessed February 2017
  7. Institute of Business Ethics, Our subscribers, IBE website, undated, accessed February 2017
  8. Institute of Business Ethics, Our subscribers, IBE website, accessed November 2011
  9. Institute of Business Ethics, Email reply to TobaccoTactics editor 21 February 2017 10:00, subject: RE: Query about IBE membership Imperial Brands
  10. abS. Webley, Letter from Simon Webley to David Wilson regarding company’s code of conduct, 11 June 1998, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 321203807, accessed February 2017
  11. G. Fooks, A. Gilmore, J. Collin, C. Holden, K. Lee, The limits of corporate social responsibility: Techniques of neutralization, stakeholder management and political CSR, Journal of Business Ethics, 2013;112(2):283-299
  12. R. Roemer, A. Taylor, J. Lariviere, Origins of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, ”American J Public Health, 2005;95(6):936-938
  13. abPhilip Morris, The ROCK Project, 15 May 1990, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 2070341739, accessed February 2017
  14. N. Cooper, Note from Neville Cooper regarding brochure, 11 December 1986, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 201096368-201096376, accessed February 2017
  15. Unknown, Agenda for the Meeting of the Board of Directors of BAT Industries plc, 3 May 1988, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 201510007-201510009, accessed February 2017
  16. M. Young, Letter from Michael Young to Stanley Kiaer regarding conference on 21st October, 29 September 1988, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no 202021183, accessed February 2017
  17. F.A. Burke, Letter from FA Burke to N Cooper regarding joining the Institute, 16 April 1992, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 201009651, accessed February 2017
  18. P.C. Godby, Letter from PC Godby to S Klaer regarding institute subscription, 28 April 1993, Truth Tobacco Industry Document, Bates no: 201121397, accessed February 2017
  19. Institute of Business Ethics, Questionnaire on Company Use of Codes of Business Conduct, 1998, 30 June 1998, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 321203805-321203806, accessed February 2017
  20. G. Frost, Multi-Nationals, Political Correctness and the Concept of Social Responsibility, 28 November 1997, Truth Tobacco Documents Library, Bates no: 322121575-322121593, accessed February 2017
  21. H. Honour, Corporate Social Responsibility, 18 January 1998, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 322121574, accessed February 2017
  22. Unknown, Global corporate social responsibility – Key UK players, February 2000, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 321309293-321309324, accessed February 2017
  23. D. O’Relly, Suggested stakeholder list, 3 May 2001, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 325123688-325123689, accessed February 2017
  24. Unknown, British-American Tobacco: Global Social and Environmental Report, 2001, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 325047533-325047573, accessed February 2017
  25. Unknown, Recommended Composition of the Expert Panel, 22 June 200, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 325047530-325047532, accessed February 2017
  26. A.F. Porter, Interim report to 30 June 2003, 29 July 2003, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, Bates no: 529565420-529565440, accessed February 2017