Unethical Behaviour

Key takeaways

  1. Companies can be linked to types of unethical behaviour, such as monopoly, tax optimisation/heaven, anti-trust etc.

  2. Ensure that your analysis is not an ethical or moral assessment. Be objective, what is the impact of the company's behaviour?

  3. To publish an analysis about a company’s unethical behaviour, you must identify the specific kind of behaviour that took place, along with the depth, breadth and persistence of impact.

What is it?

“Unethical behaviour is an action that falls outside of what is considered morally right or proper for a person, a profession or an industry. Individuals can behave unethically, as can businesses, professionals and politicians.”

Examples of (un)ethical behaviour topics(to differentiate with corruption), include:

- Anti-competitive
- Anti-trust
- Business ethics
- Governance



    SDG choice

    (other SDGs may apply depending on the impact of the unethical behaviour)

    Impact assessment


    Before starting the research and writing process, make sure to select the appropriate topic:

    - Taxes

    The topic addresses issues related to the payment of taxes and other tax obligations. The payment of corporate taxes by companies is contributing positively to society through the financing of public services and infrastructures. On the other hand, tax evasion can have adverse social externalities, through the reduction of the amount going to public services supplied by the government. The impact can be considered significant when the amount evaded is above approximately USD or EUR 100 million. 

    - Anti-competitor behavior

    The topic covers issues associated with the existence of monopolies, which may include, but are not limited to, excessive prices, poor quality of service, and inefficiencies. It addresses a company’s management of legal and social expectation around monopolistic and anti-competitive practices, including issues related to bargaining power, collusion, price-fixing or manipulation, and protection of patents and intellectual property (IP).

    - Bribery

    The topic addresses the company’s approach to managing bribery issues. This includes sensitivity to business norms and standards as they shift over time, jurisdiction, and culture. It addresses the company’s ability to train employees adequately and implementing policies and procedures to ensure employees are not the perpetrators/beneficiaries of bribery.


    In your analysis about a type of corporate unethical behaviour, consider the following analysis flow that is in alignment with the IMP framework:

    1. Start by explaining why good governance is crucial, particularly for banks and multinationals that can play a systemic role in the broader economy. A general value of good governance would apply here.

    2. Explain how governance failure has led to concrete issues such as monopoly, tax optimisation/heaven, etc.

    3. Quantify the negative impact. For example, for tax optimisation, it could be preventing some governments from using tax proceeds for the benefit of society. For monopoly, the negative impact is related to the fact that it limits competition, and therefore, can restrict innovation.

    • An analysis that reports on a company’s unethical behaviour is only acceptable if details are provided about the impact of that type of behaviour(s) and its impact on society or the environment.

    • Make sure in your analysis that you do not make an ethical assessment of the company, but rather an impact assessment. Read our article “Golden Rule #3: Differentiate ethics from impact” if you are unsure about the difference between the two.

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