Companies are often challenged on how to live by its Code of Ethics.
One response to this challenge is an integrated approach in applying the Code of Ethics by considering its purpose on both the corporate and personal levels. Individuals discover and become more aware that the corporate purpose is aligned with their personal purpose. As a logical consequence, they become inspired to be responsive, innovative and creative in delivering products, services and commitments to various stakeholders.
There are ways to demonstrate this approach and highlight the importance of the personal purpose of individuals living the Code of Ethics.
Leading by example is the most effective way to influence others to behave ethically. When company leaders believe that ethical business is good business, it is easier for an ethical culture to flourish. The attitude at the top, inspired by the corporate purpose, is essential.
The Integrity Initiative Inc. (III) offers a guide for those who have yet to establish a corporate ethics framework. In the Integrity Compliance Handbook, III introduces the Integrity Compliance Framework (ICF) with these key features:
1) Integrity must be ingrained in the fabric of the company. It is anchored on the company’s mission, vision and core values, operationalized in the code of conduct and specific policies and guidelines, and embedded into the management systems and processes.
2) These are organized around the tone from the top, and practices from the ground up—areas that are both important in promoting integrity, but also vulnerable to corrupt practices.
3) ICF identifies four key control measures, derived from global standards on corporate governance. These are (a) integrity governance and policy structure; (b) risk assessment; (c) documentation, communication and reporting; and (d) implementation and monitoring.
The synergy of these components leads to institutionalizing ethical practices that are common among companies.
The handbook also provides a self-assessment tool. It is designed to help companies gauge the extent to which their existing policies and practices are aligned with the Code of Conduct for Business that III promotes in the business community.
Equally important is the ethical fitness of each individual in the company. In his article entitled Ethical Fitness Develops Personal Leadership, David Dyson defined ethical fitness as “an advanced concept of ethics awareness and personal leadership that comes from preparation to internalize beliefs and values, decision-making ability, plus action.” The full article is posted on the Birmingham Business Journal website (bizjournals.com/birmingham).
An individual is behind every task and interaction in the workplace. It is the individual who implements the Code and eventually makes or breaks the corporate ethics program, depending on the state of his or her ethical fitness. An individual who has a clear personal purpose, vision, mission and values will most likely have the inclination to behave ethically.
Thus, in order to live the corporate Code of Ethics, there must be a sound, corporate-wide initiative and a steadfast personal initiative of the individual. Most companies have allotted budget to roll out a corporate-wide program to promote ethical practices. This can be taken further by examining how the company assists the individual to carry out personal initiatives.
A personalized and well-planned learning and development program can be launched for the company’s human resources. This will allow the individual to rediscover one’s purpose. This leads the individual to (1) formulate his personal vision and mission, (2) clarify and identify goals, and (3) prepare a detailed action plan. An individual with a clear personal purpose will be more likely to contribute to the realization of the corporate purpose. The individual will see that as the corporate purpose is realized, his own personal purpose is also fulfilled.
Ethics in daily life
Congruence in applying ethical fitness means that ethics is applied not only in the workplace but also in our daily lives.
Are you aware that every day on the road, we learn and practice how to behave ethically? The road is a school of ethics where we can take a quick test of our ethical fitness.
Take for example the simple road sign, “Stay on your lane.” Some prefer to keep changing lanes rather than follow this rule. Even if the reason is valid, violating this rule increases the risk of getting into a car accident. Following road signs can help ease the traffic situation.
Some rules may seem unimportant, but in total they contribute to a better society. It’s the small things that matter. Following simple and yet meaningful rules helps develop a strong foundation to achieve the desired ethical fit. This foundation is based on concern for others and working for the common good.
The road to ethical fitness starts with one’s personal purpose. How about getting personal in your ethics training program next year? When the corporate Code of Ethics is aligned with the individual’s personal life direction, living the Code could spread throughout the workplace and our daily lives.
Rodel Acosta is a partner from Assurance, Ethics & Business Conduct Leader and Partner Responsible for Independence of Isla Lipana& Co./PwC Philippines. Email your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.