Global economic crisis also values crisis: Davos poll

PARIS (Reuters) - Two-thirds of people around the world think the global economic crisis is also a crisis of ethical values that calls for more honesty, transparency and respect for others, according to a World Economic Forum poll.

Almost as many name business as the sector that should stress values more to foster a better world, said the poll for the Forum’s annual Davos summit that opened on Wednesday.

Only 12.9 percent of the 130,000 people polled said businesses were primarily accountable to their shareholders. Another 18.2 percent said clients and customers, 22.9 percent named employees and 46 percent cited all of them equally.

“The poll results point to a trust deficit regarding values in the business world,” the Forum said in a statement. “Only one-quarter of respondents believe that large multinational businesses apply a values-driven approach to their sectors.”

The poll was conducted through Facebook in France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and the United States.

A large majority of 67.8 percent said the current global economic crisis was “also a crisis of ethics and values.” Only 62.4 percent of younger respondents aged 18-23 agreed here but the total jumped to 78.6 percent for those over 30 years old.

The highest “yes” votes came in Mexico (80.1 percent), South Africa (77.4 percent), Indonesia (72.8 percent) and the United States (70.7 percent). France was lowest at 60.3 percent.

Only 19 percent of total responses thought faulty ethics played no role in the current economic crisis, according to the poll that can be downloaded at http//

Sixty percent said businesses large and small should stress values more, compared to 23 percent for politics and 16.1 percent for global institutions.

Asked which values were most important in the global political and economic system, 39.3 percent said honesty, integrity and transparency, 23.7 percent chose respecting others, 19.9 percent said considering the impact of actions on others and 17 percent said preserving the environment.

The survey showed several variations according to countries. “Religion and faith are most likely to drive values in the United States, Saudi Arabia and South Africa,” it said.

France and Germany are way ahead of others in saying firms are primarily accountable to their employees, while Israelis led both among those who said businesses were most accountable to shareholders and among those saying to clients and customers.

While two-thirds of respondents saw an ethical crisis, only 54.2 percent believed that universal values -- a possible basis for a more moral approach to business -- actually exist.

Among rich nations, Germany was far ahead (64.9 percent) of the United States (49.9 percent) and France (37.6 percent) here.

Editing by Jon Boyle