How to Build a Business Ethics Program

Corporate financial scandals have highlighted the importance of business ethics and legal compliance. Yet, a National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) survey of 280 corporate CEOs and directors found that “only one of three directors felt that they were highly effective in ensuring legal compliance“. Do you know how important a business ethics program is? Better yet, do you know how to build one?

Building a Business Ethics and Compliance Program

Most companies realize that they need to develop and implement a business ethics and compliance program. An effective program can:

  • Establish a code of conduct that reduces risk of criminal behavior
  • Detect wrongdoing, foster quick investigations, minimize consequences
  • Demonstrate company’s ethical/legal philosophy during an investigation
  • Reduce fines if company is found guilty of wrongdoing
  • Enhance company reputation and stature

Looking at Program Options

But how do you build an effective program, while making compliance easier for everyone to achieve?

Companies find themselves with three options to build an ethics program:

  1. Develop in-house from scratch
  2. Hire an external consultant
  3. Use a pre-written manual

And most of these companies learn a few lessons – sometimes the hard way.

Making a Strong Decision

Developing an ethics program from scratch can be very time consuming and costly. Also, the company might not have the knowledge or understanding of the complexity involved. But hiring an external consultant is not always a cost effective option either. So what’s left?

Developing Your Business Ethics Program

By using a pre-written template or manual, many companies have found it easier to develop their business ethics program. And to do this, they look for what a strong program needs. A highly effective tool for creating, organizing and implementing a sound business ethics and compliance program should provide:

  • Free policies and procedures
  • An Ethics Policy
  • Step-by-step instructions for the development of a program
  • A business ethics training program outline with classroom materials and a detailed session leader’s guide
  • Business ethics and compliance officer position description
  • Templates for employee involvement
  • Sample code of conduct

Implementing Your Business Ethics Program

If the company board has committed to a strong business ethics and compliance program, the next step is to put the manual in the hands of corporate executives responsible for implementation. Used properly under advice of legal counsel, this efficient tool will yield a solid program that the board can understand, endorse, and monitor for effectiveness.

With step-by-step guidelines and accompanying examples of policies, procedures, a training program and an employee survey, such an effective tool provides an excellent road map for implementing an ethics and compliance initiative.

Maintaining a Culture of Integrity

Companies should make certain that their ethics compliance manual provides fully editable MS Word files with sample policies, surveys, forms, and training session outlines. Also, businesses should ensure their ethics compliance system manual is fully endorsed by The National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) as a tool to maintain a culture of integrity.

One thought on “How to Build a Business Ethics Program”

  1. Ethics is a very important part and it is something people do not pick up on the go, it has a lot to do with how a person is wired. Some people have very strong work ethics others don’t. While ethics a really vast subject the one mentioned in your article calls for a process, even after the training. I think it is equally important to test the understanding after the training. A quick assessment of what they have learned should help you identify which part is difficult to understand, where all can you improve etc.

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