Business ethics are increasingly being a hot topic among Canadians.
It’s no surprise that a growing number of business owners are questioning the value of their personal financial security when it comes to regulating their businesses.
“I’m starting to realize, what the heck am I going to do?” said one woman who owns a retail chain in Toronto.
“I don’t want to be the person that’s doing all the things that are not necessarily being done to protect the community.”
According to a study commissioned by the Canadian Association of Business Ethics, about 70 per cent of Canadian business owners and their family members said they have been hesitant to share their financial information with regulators.
“We have a financial system where we have so many trust issues and so many issues around disclosure and who is accountable for those things,” said Julie Zemel, a former member of the National Economic Council and a former senior advisor to the Privy Council Office of the Prime Minister.
The association says a large number of people have been deterred from joining the ranks of business people who have a stake in the country’s economic health, including the prime minister, the provinces, the federal government, municipalities, banks, pension plans and others.
“It’s a huge challenge for people who are trying to navigate the regulatory system,” Zemelsaid.
Zemel says she has had conversations with about 20 other people in her community about the ethical implications of financial disclosure.
“And they’re just all saying, ‘I don-t have the same trust in the system,'” Zemesaid.
The group says that the most common reason for people not to share information is fear of retaliation.
But not everyone is feeling so secure about their financial well-being.
Zamela says the people she’s spoken with who are considering going public with their financial concerns have also had some positive experiences with the system.
“The people who were reluctant to share it, they’re going to go public with it and they’re not going to be intimidated by the regulators.
They’re not fearful,” she said.”
People are coming out of the woodwork saying, I don’t know what to do.
And I don-magine they’re probably nervous.”
She says there is also an increasing awareness of the need to have transparency in our financial systems.
“When you’re dealing with the government, and when you’re negotiating deals, you’re talking about how do we make sure that the public can have confidence in the government?” she said, noting that many businesses have a “financial trust” with the public that requires a lot of oversight.
“That’s really, really hard to do, but that’s the job of the regulatory authorities.”
And Zemela says she’s seeing that in other parts of the country as well.
“There are a lot more people who’re going public because they don’t feel comfortable going to a place where they’re making decisions about the people that they’re dealing.
And they don-re not really being told about the risks, about the potential consequences,” she added.”
So we’ve got a lot people in our community that don’t trust the regulatory systems to make the best decisions for their communities.”
While the group acknowledges that it is “an uphill battle” in many parts of Canada, Zemelman says the organization has heard from many business people about the value in having financial information on file.
“These are people that have had their livelihoods threatened because of their lack of transparency and trust in their institutions.
And the fact that they are talking about it is really, truly important,” she explained.