In an effort to educate employees about ethical business practices and regulatory compliance within the organization, many organizations are developing ethics and compliance programs. These programs encourage ethical behavior and compliance with regulatory requirements.
There are five factors which influence a company to develop, implement and manage an ethics and compliance program:
- To present and abide by a code of business conduct which supports ethical and legal behaviors in the workplace to reduce the potential for crimes being committed.
- To develop, implement and manage a compliance program, which will detect wrongdoing when it occurs and has a system for the quick investigation of reports of such actions and a process for the minimization of any adverse consequences.
- To support the company's ethical/legal philosophy during a government investigation to show that the alleged act was outside of the company's approach to good corporate citizenship, thereby demonstrating that the criminal act was limited to that employee and not the corporation.
- To reduce the fines levied if the company is found guilty of a criminal offense.
- To enhance the company's reputation and stature as a corporate citizen with its shareholders, customers and general public.
The advantages of a well-developed, implemented and managed ethics/ corporate compliance are quite clear. Companies who voluntarily develop effective ethics and compliance programs as a part of their management process are making a wise decision. An effective ethics and compliance program can provide the organization with a process for identifying and educating the employees about legal and regulatory responsibilities thereby preventing violations of the law and encouraging good decision making, serve as proof to government investigators that the company has a commitment to compliance should the business come under government scrutiny, and may mitigate any fines and/or penalties imposed by a government agency. Perhaps, most importantly, is that encouraging employees to do the right thing and providing a system for encouraging responsible business practices and legal compliance is ultimately the best management strategy for any business.
It is important to recognize that these programs are not just for large corporations. Smaller organizations can and should develop ethics and compliance programs as a part of their governance process.
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