OBU RAP Topic 13 – Research an organisation that is recognised as having poor ethical business practices, analyse and evaluate the reasons for the poor ethical business practices and the impact this has on identified stakeholder groups



An ethical business shows respect for its employees by valuing opinions and giving all the employees the due credit for their work. The business demonstrates respect for its customers by listening to feedback and assessing needs. An ethical business respects its vendors, pays on time, and utilizes fair buying terms. If these practices are not common in an organisation, then that could qualify for research on this topic. Firstly, the organisation should be well known for its unethical values and there should be sufficient public evidence to support it.  The poor ethical values of the business must be publicly recognized. Poor ethical business practices may include

  • Fraud
  • creative accounting
  • Unethical supply chain management
  • Poor corporate governance

Fraud is a crime committed by the employees of an organisation. it involves stealing money from the business and disguising it as the needs of the business.

Creative accounting refers to falsely portraying a better image of the position of the company. Rules and regulations are followed but they are not intended for the standard purpose.

Unethical supply chain management means using labour through forced means. Labor consent is not involved.

Poor corporate governance can lead to many problems in a company such as fraud and corruption. Employees also lack a sense of accountability for their work.

All the companies indulging in these practices should be considered for this topic and the reasons for this should also be researched. Corporate misconduct can also have many destroying impacts on the shareholder’s value and also other stakeholders’ links with the business. Poor or unethical behaviour can often lead to penalties, compensation, and legal provision, which impacts shareholder value.

All the impacts are to be investigated in the light of publicly available information and with the help of an experienced mentor.

Key features/requirements for topic 13 (assessment of ethical business practices)

The requirements that should be considered are as follows

  • Selecting an organisation having poor ethical practices
  • Identifying all the poor and unethical values of the business
  • Identifying the reasons for these unethical business practices
  • Assessing the impact of these practices on the key stakeholders.
  • Using suitable business models to assess the impact

Key success factors for topic 13 (assessment of ethical business practices)

In addition to the guidance of a mentor, there are some other key success factors

  • Selecting a suitable company that has a proven record of unethical business practices
  • Identification of the unethical behaviours adopted by the company
  • Identification of the reasons for this unethical performance by the company
  • Assessing the impact of these poor business ethics practices on the stakeholders of the company
  • Creating a link between poor ethics and the effects on the business of the company
  • Access to the internally generated information
  • Permission from the management to use the internally generated information
  • In-depth knowledge of all the unethical and prohibited behaviour
  • In-depth knowledge of the impact of these ethics on the success of the company
  • Demonstrating a clear understanding of the industry and its competitive peers
  • Adequate application of the selected goals and objectives that were set at the beginning of the RAP in the proper sections of RAP
  • The implementation of the correct research methodology to get good results on all the selected goals and objectives that were put in place at the beginning of the RAP
  • Keeping the discussion logical by keeping all the objectives in mind
  • Using reliable and appropriate sources for data gathering
  • Properly referencing the information gathered according to the Harvard referencing style as told by the OBU.
  • Usage of suitable business models to study different unethical behaviours and their impact
  • A comparison to another organisation or the industry is secondary information is being used

Accounting and Business models for topic 13 (assessment of ethical business practices)

Models of corporate social responsibility (CSR): Corporate social responsibility are business models that are specifically designed to educate companies to make efforts to operate in a manner that enhances society and the environment rather than degrading it. It is a great model to help companies build their reputation and brand image. These programs are also a great way to raise the morale of the employees at the workplace.

This model comprises four components of corporate social responsibility.

  • The economical responsibility– companies exist to make profits, which is their main agenda. However, a company can make as much money as it wants only while staying within ethical limits.
  • The legal responsibility is to follow the rules and regulations. Responsible organizations accept the rules as a social good and make good faith efforts to obey them.
  • The ethical responsibility is to do what’s right even when it is not required by the law of the country.
  • The philanthropic responsibility is the community work or the social work that company is carrying out although there is nothing to be earned.
  • This model can be studied in detail to judge a company’s level of ethical behaviour. If the company is in severe breach of the model above, then it surely means that the company has poor conduct.

Stakeholder analysis: stakeholder analysis is a process of identifying all the interested parties that can influence your systems and potential changes. This is a very important process that management can use to win the support of other people. It ensures that your business operations succeed where others might fail. Identification of stakeholders and winning their trust and support is very crucial to the success of any project or company. This model can help companies in building relationships with stakeholders, winning resources, and getting ahead of the game. Stakeholder analysis can be conducted in three steps:

  • Identify your stakeholders: There might be many people or parties who are interested in the company such as the shareholders, government, alliance partners or suppliers
  • Prioritize your stakeholders: classifying the stakeholders based on their power and influence over the company is the next step in stakeholder analysis.
  • Understand your key stakeholders: companies need to understand how their key stakeholders feel about their business operations and projects.

The reasons for the company’s poor ethical behaviour can also be judged by looking at its financial and non-financial KPIs. The company might want to improve its financials and is using unethical means to turn the financial ratios in its favour. So ratio analysis and non-financial KPIs must be considered.

Relevant Non-financial KPIs can also be used to better analyse this topic. KPIs are the key targets you should track to make the most impact on your strategic business outcomes. KPIs support your strategy and help your teams focus on what’s important. One approach to incorporating insightful KPIs is to use the SMART criteria: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

  • Many non-financial performance indicators such as GRI, and integrated reporting capitals can be used.
  • Many other models and modes of analysis can be used to produce a well-researched RAP with the help and guidance of your experienced mentor.

Major benefits of choosing Topic 13

Following points represent the major benefits of choosing this topic

  • Students will get to know about the unethical business practices that are used in businesses
  • Students will learn about the relevant companies and the industry of the selected company
  • The insight will be gained regarding all the business models used to study ethics
  • Students will learn about fraud, creative accounting and their penalties in the books of laws
  • A detailed study regarding CSR and other ethical models will equip the students for their professional careers
  • Students can apply their theoretical knowledge to real-world situations.
  • A critical analysis of the ethical framework and the company’s business and financial performance will help to sharpen the required skills needed by a professional

Possible limitations faced by the students while researching topic 13

The main aim of conducting research is to set up new facts or confirm the outcomes of the previous research. It enables us to gain new knowledge regarding the subject. However, while preparing for OBU thesis research students face many problems.

General Limitations

Research method: Students need to have a clear understanding of the research methods. Mainly the research methods are not relevant or reliable as students are not trained in different methodologies. Simply replicating the knowledge available online or from different sources is not wise. There is a lack of basic knowledge regarding the correct methods of research.

  • Overlapping information: overlapping information is often obtained as a result of excessive research through different sources. Each source has its own story to tell. Students often get confused regarding the facts and statements
  • Students may not be able to get authorization to talk to the higher management and also some information may not be provided due to confidentiality issues.
  • Interaction between the subject company and student: Mainly there isn’t any proper interaction between the subject company and the student. This means that a substantial amount of data going into the thesis goes untapped. The key issues of the company can only be highlighted with the help of internal company management.
  • Time constraints: it is without a doubt that students need to complete their RAP before the deadline hits. Sometimes, the time limit can affect the quality of RAP very negatively. Students need to acknowledge this from the very start and set a schedule to be consistent with their research.
  • Data collection process: The different ways of collecting data presents a strong limitation. If a student conducts an interview person to person or if he does it over the phone, both can have different effects on the interview. Hence, this data limitation must be reflected upon

Specific Limitations

  •  Limited amount of data: All the unethical business practices might not be revealed. It is impossible that only limited information is present
  • Undetected Fraud and other unethical activities: A company might be involved in more than one unethical activity but they managed to go undetected

Suitable organization for Topic 13

The most suitable organisation is the one in which the company has a public record of unethical business practices. It is very crucial to the successful RAP submission of this topic. It is not possible to write on this topic without extensive secondary research. Selecting a company that is established enough so that its performance and financial position to be studied over some time is necessary. To make a high-quality RAP, it is essential that students choose a company whose operations are easily understood by the student and he can make connections between various topics.

The following factors should be kept in mind while choosing a company for RAP:

  • The general interest of the student in the company
  • The amount of information available for the company
  • Access to the internal management of the company
  • Access to reliable secondary sources of information
  • Familiarity with the industry sector associated with the company

The most appropriate organisation for topic 13 would be the ones that have been accused of unethical behaviour repeatedly and this is proven. To get more information about the companies that have ethical issues and how they did it, click on the link below


Suggested approach for topic 13

Before starting your research, you should understand the assignment. The guidelines mentioned in the information pack should be read. The word count and length should be looked upon. What kind of sources are required by the topic, primary or secondary? The style of citation ‘Harvard referencing’ should be understood by the students. All the other requirements and directions made by the OBU must be complied with. After choosing this topic, a proper mind map must be made from the start, so the student conducts all the required tasks in a proper and timely manner. All the major requirements and aspects of the topic should be considered thoroughly so that a strategy can be devised to meet those requirements. A research methodology and all reliable websites and authentic sources should be noted down. The style of referencing must be kept in mind while researching this topic in order to pass the OBU RAP.

In Part 1– (Research objectives and overall research approach), Students need to make a table of contents and a title page mentioning the ACCA reg number and the selected topic. Part 1 mostly contains the introduction and the objectives of the RAP. The objectives should be consistent with the research of the project. Your personal aims and goals are not required to be a part of this section. The selection of an unethical company must be based on justifications and your work should present it. Research questions related to poor business practices and its reasons must be answered in a structured manner.

Part 2- (Information gathering/accounting and business techniques) is a test of your understanding of the business and accountancy models.  A quality explanation of the used models or any other frameworks and analysis of all their possible limitations must be performed. The proper way of representing section 2 is by first mentioning the sources of information that were used to acquire the data for research on topic 13. Topic 13 relates to unethical business practices used by the companies and the impacts on their businesses so publicly available information can be used such as the annual reports, articles by famous newspapers, journals etc. There may be many lawsuits against the company and a detailed record of its unethical practices. All those sources can be used. Students are advised to select only those resources that they can understand easily.  Briefly describe all the sources used and why they were considered good sources. There are many websites, books and newspapers that can be used. Limitation of sources such as lack of information and reliability must be mentioned. Any ethical issues that arose during information gathering and your solutions regarding the issues. Every part should be backed up by good references. Next, you would list down all the business and accountancy models and their possible limitations. CSR framework is very relevant for this topic. To find out more about the selection of respective models for topic 13, kindly refer to section ‘Accounting and business models for topic 13’ above.  Word count is to be prioritized which is 1800-2000 words.

In part 3, there is a further evaluation, analysis, and conclusion. It should contain a description of the results obtained and all the limitations. Further research with examples and comparisons between the two companies is done. It is the most critical section, and most students fail in it if they are not in the hands of an experienced mentor.

Evaluation and analysis of topic 13 mean you need to explain the financial performance with the help of ratios and compare those ratios over the three-year time period. How have the unethical practices affected the business and financial performance of the company? All the reasons for its unethical behaviour must be listed and explained. You should analyse the trends of financial ratios and determine if the poor financial performance led to the adoption of practices like creative accounting. The company may want to conceal its performance in the audit, and this could be one of the reasons.  Recommendations to the selected company may be made but it is not very necessary. It is of utmost importance that word count must be kept in mind. If you exceed it in any way, then the examiner will not mark the conclusions resulting in failure.  4500 words must be written to ensure a detailed analysis.

This approach is a very broad version of how topic 13 can be tackled. Every student must take his own approach according to his perception of the topic.

Suggested Approach for SLS

The meetings with the mentor must be planned at the start of the RAP and a track of those meetings must be kept in a diary as it will help later on to write the SLS. The time required to conduct effective research needs to be calculated at the start and a timetable should be kept in place. Religiously following the requirements and keeping track of the time is necessary to pass the RAP. All the information gathered should be recorded systemically and needs to be shared with your project mentor so that complete guidance can be given to you. Consultation with the project mentor ensures that a student passes with the highest possible grade. If any issue arises it can be solved by discussing it with your project guide.

Sources of information

There are mainly two types of sources that can be used, primary and secondary.

Primary sources are the data that you collect on your own and it is considered first-hand. This can be done by conducting interviews, surveys or having participants fill in questionnaires. In this topic, students are not required to gather information directly from the management which will qualify as a primary source of information.

Secondary information on the other hand refers to already available and published information. Using it to your own advantage by checking the authenticity of these sources can be very beneficial for the RAP.  All other sources of information such as online websites, journals, and articles are considered secondary sources of information. Documents related to lawsuits, police records and Investigation authority reports can be used for studying the unethical business practices company had been involved in. For using a secondary source, the reliability must be checked and then the information should be put in the RAP. This topic can be carried out well only with the help of secondary information. Information in the RAP must be through a relevant source and its content should also be relevant to the topic. The sources of information play a crucial role in producing a good RAP that is based on facts and figures. If reliable sources are not found, then a student must consider choosing a different topic for which information is more easily available.

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