The public's perception of dishonesty is too high, while in the best companies there is no conflict between business and ethics, says the chairman of Ryder Systems Inc.

"Ethical behavior is essential for ultimate business success," Anthony Burns told 300 business systems attending a recent seminar on information systems at Utah State University."The concluding issue is that it takes ethical behavior to succeed in business," Burns said. "It must begin with the senior people and be recognized throughout the company. It is not inconsistent to say business ethics."

But the public apparently doesn't agree.

Burns cited a recent poll indicating that 55 percent of the people questioned believe business executives are dishonest. Only 33 percent of those surveyed thought business executives were honest.

"A successful business has to establish trust with its customers, its employees, its suppliers, its shareholders and with the communities where it does business," said Burns, a graduate of Brigham Young University and now head of a $6 billion transportation company.

Ethics in business start with the relationship with employees, which drives the other relationships and is the key to the success of a corporation, Burns said, noting that a strong eithical foundation attracts the best employees.

"Ya gotta walk like ya talk," he said. "Senior management must set the tone. If the leaders don't have ethics the organization won't have them."

Though Ryder Systems has acquired 97 different companies since Burns joined them, the president says they will not make a hostile acquisition.

He also said they work to maintain the management even after an acquisition.

Talking about the importance of a good, close relationship with the community, Burns said his company bases bonuses to executives on two things - profit making and community involvement. Burns himself is chairman of the National Urban League and was chairman of United Way of Miami, where the company is headquartered.