The State of Business Ethics in Israel: A Light Unto the Nations?
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Whether the nation of Israel has become a “light unto the nations” in terms of ethical behavior among its business community remains in doubt. To examine the current state of business ethics in Israel, the study examines the following: (1) the extent of business ethics education in Israel; (2) the existence of formal corporate ethics program elements based on an annual survey of over 50 large Israeli corporations conducted over 5 years (2006–2010); and (3) perceptions of the state of business ethics based on interviews conducted with 22 senior Israeli corporate executives. In general, and particularly as a young country, Israel might be considered to have made great improvements in the state of business ethics over the years. In terms of business ethics education, the vast majority of universities and colleges offer at least an elective course in business ethics. In terms of formal business ethics program elements, many large companies now have a code of ethics, and over time continue to add additional elements. Most respondents believed they worked in ethical firms. Despite these developments, however, there appears to be significant room for improvement, particularly in terms of issues like: nepotism/favoritism; discrimination; confidentiality; treatment of customers; advertising; competitive intelligence; whistle-blowing; worker health and safety; and the protection of the environment. When compared with the U.S. or Europe, most believed that Israeli firms and their agents were not as ethical in business. A number of reasons were suggested that might be affecting the state of business ethics in Israel. A series of recommendations were also provided on how firms can better encourage an ethical corporate culture. The paper concludes with its limitations.