Compliance & Ethics
During a meeting, a client turned to me after explaining to his team that his role was the “gas” and as I, his consultant, was the “break.” This presented a great opportunity to better explain the role of compliance and ethics and how a well-developed program should be viewed as "headlights," meant to illuminate and mitigate potential risks rather than merely the breaks.
Business is exciting! Taking a concept, forming a strategy and bringing a service or product to market can be both daunting and rewarding. And along with that rewards are risks. No matter your industry, a critical component of operations, stability and growth is a well designed and integrated corporate compliance & ethics (C&E) program.
"Capsizing is inevitable, drowning is not" ....a wise sailor
C&E is the process of making sure your company, its employees and even vendors are aware of and follow the laws, regulations, standards, and ethical practices that apply to your organization. An effective C&E program will cover both internal policies and rules as well as federal and state laws.
A well-developed program recognizes that simple "compliance" should be the low bar to hurdle. At its core, it should lay out expectations for employee behavior and help your employees stay focused on your organization’s broader business and operational goals.
The creation of a C&E program early in the evolution of your organization will help build a solid operational foundation and will help your business leaders better identify when changes are needed in order to improve outcomes. Additionally, a C&E program helps employees better understand the importance of compliance with external regulations as well as internal rules and procedures that are core to creating a values and purpose-driven culture.
Having a C&E program is not only required but consistent enforcement will help prevent and detect violations of rules and potentially save your organization from fines and lawsuits.
Corporate compliance is about managing risk and creating a culture of C&E
A comprehensive and effective C&E program requires that you understand your organization's risk profile and identify the areas of your business that pose the highest compliance risks. This requires your C&E program to work closely with your business heads and to make sure that management and employees understand senior leadership's commitment to C&E excellence. This top-down focus is the foundation necessary to create a culture of C&E.
Once risk areas are identified and prioritized, resources can be focused to make sure policy and procedures are is in place to manage these risks. Creating a structured system to analyze and manage risk is vital and should be reviewed regularly as the corporate risk profile is always changing.
The Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) suggests conducting a formal assessment process to evaluate factors including:
Brainstorm, prioritize and map out potential risks as they relate to the business
Review audit results, C&E hotline issues, regulatory changes and industry enforcement trends
Understand the cost/benefit of comprehensive C&E solutions as they relate to risks
Make recommendations to the business
Partner with the business to ensure that any action plan will meet the desired goals
AND make sure that your compliance officer, CCEO, CCO or representative reports appropriate risks DIRECTLY to your board.
SCCE recommends that a risk assessment is delivered to board members on a quarterly basis, and so risk should be continuously monitored.
Ultimately, the purpose of a corporate compliance program is to protect your organization and help employees identify and report illegal or unethical activity.
Identifying and correcting non-compliant and unethical behavior can help your organization avoid waste, fraud, abuse, discrimination, and other practices that not only disrupt operations but ultimately put your company at risk.
Not only can risk be mitigated, but research shows that organizations with a well developed values-based C&E program have employees who are more invested in the overall success of the company and more willing to help the organization as a whole in executing its value proposition.