What's the value of high ethical standards and what are the challenges of maintaining organisational ethics standards? A group of market leaders discussed this question at our Summit of the Americas: Chicago 2017.

During this session - titled The RICS Ethics Debate: The Value of Honest Business - the panellists agreed on the importance and value of ethics and offered some insights into the challenges organisations faced and some of the successful strategies to develop organisations with high ethical standards.

The varying value of ethics

Ethics provides value to different stakeholder groups. In the panellists view, ethics provided obvious value that was not always easy to quantify.

The benefits for firms often show up in the long term. From a client’s view, they're often doing business with the same group of firms. Ethical behavior encourages a long term relationship; ethical lapses can quickly lead to the end of that relationship.

For clients, ethical business practices mean that problems get fixed. The general public benefits from good ethics in a number of ways. A market that is transparent and has the confidence of consumers and investors will see increased commerce, investment and growth.

International Ethic Standards (IES)

Our CEO Sean Tompkins and Flavio Amary of SECOVI discussed the role of International Ethics Standards (IES).

RICS and SECOVI are two of the more than 100 organizations that helped to develop IES, a set of high level principles that guide ethical behavior in the built environment. There are many challenges to creating global standards.

Different parts of the world may have different views on what is ethical. Trying to reconcile local differences is a challenge, but IES provides a framework and basis for organizations to develop a program to develop and ensure the highest ethical standards.

Ethics: A systematic approach

One of the challenges that organizations face is how to promote ethical behavior. Organizations need to take a systematic approach to promoting ethics that includes some key elements.

Leaders of the organization need to set the tone. Accountability needs to be ensured at all levels of an organization, all the way up to the board of directors. Compliance and reporting measures are essential. There needs to be a policy of non-retaliation to protect whistle blowers. Finally, annual training continues to reinforce the importance of ethics with employees

The role of technology

Technology can be an important tool in promoting ethics, but it can not represent the sole solution.

Technology can provide greater transparency. If a firm does bad work, technology makes that information more likely to be both captured and disseminated, meaning that the market is more likely to be aware of the issue. Technology also enables larger, global organizations to better monitor their operations and help to identify and prevent possible unethical behavior.


  • Flavio Amary, President of SECOVI
  • Carlos de la Fuenta Herrera, Director General of INDAABIN
  • Charles Hardy, Chief Workplace Officer for the Public Buildings Service at GSA
  • Sean Tompkins, the CEO of RICS (moderator)
  • Anna Urquiza, Director, Americas Quality Risk Management, CBRE

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