A r t i c l e s
is doing its best to satisfy stakeholders (all those internallyand externally related to the firm, such as employees,shareholders, clients, suppliers, the local community and thesociety as a whole). From this important premise, the figureof the Ethics Officer when he or she carries out his or hertask properly can become the meeting point between thesenior management, in general, and the rest of thecollaborators of the firm, as far as ethical issues are concerned.We are aware of the fact that ethical management issues arenot easily delegated in the same way as production, marketingor finance functions. Nevertheless, the creation of the EthicsOfficer figure is justified once the ethical guidelines havebeen established.
Do you need an Ethics Officer?
Ethical governance encompasses, not only teaching people howto be ethical but also teaching ethical people how to make agood decision when it could be difficult. Two decades ago,many businesses did not believe they had a duty beyond theminimum dictates of the law. That just doesn’t work today. Asmall number of wayward employees can sink a company,however massive it is. For companies to survive, they have tolearn to be pro-active in the gray areas of business. That iswhere the tough decisions are made. That is when ethics paysoff.An “Ethics Officer”, is one of a new generation of corporatemanagers who believe that “Business Ethics” need not be anoxymoron. The goal of an ethics officer is not only to insurethat the company operates in a compliance environment butthat all bring a strong, personal sense of values to our everyday experience in the workplace. Many times, employees haveno place to turn when they are under pressure - there were noclear company-wide ethical standards, no ethical hotline, andno ombudsmen to take their concerns.One of the roles of an Ethics Officer is to examine the statedvalues, mission, and goals of an organization and to determinewhether or not the organization’s behavior actually supportsthese statements. A company which claims to behave ethicallymay use an Ethics Officer as a symbol of accountability,showing that it does not just pay lip service, but actually hasan ethics code in force and appoints people to enforce it.Ethics Officers can also be part of the ethical review boardswhich review proposed experiments in the researchenvironment or consider other proposed activities which mayhave ethical implications. The Ethics Officer may also beempowered to undertake investigations into specific employeesor activities to confirm that they conform with company’sethical guidelines.
Common characteristics of Ethics Officers
They are strong communicators.
They are objective and thoughtful.
They have the ability to establish and maintain credibilityand trust throughout the organisation.
They have the ability to quickly assimilate informationrelating to complex issues.
They have the ability to network on all levels of anorganisation.
They have reached personal and professional maturity.
They show rationality in tense interpersonal situations.
They have a deep organisational knowledge.
They have a working knowledge of applicable laws andregulations.
They have experience and training in ethics andcompliance.
They have integrity and common sense.
Major Ethical Issues
Ethical governance is not just a question of process but of mindset and values among all stakeholders – and this can posethe greatest challenge. One thing is certain: nobody likes to‘lose face’. Nervousness about doing the wrong thing hasheightened. If companies value the formalizing of an ethicalframework, it is surely because it helps them cope with anincreasingly complex business environment due to openingmarkets, falling trade barriers, and intensified competition.The threat of legal penalties exists, but that is not the mainmotivation. Upholding the company’s good name andreputation for integrity are important competitive advantages,and that’s the main motivation.Board of Directors shall pay enough attention to the followingethical issues:
Creating a culture of integrity
Implementing a code of ethics
Assessing level of adherence to code of ethics
Tackling actual or suspected fraud
Removing conflicts of interest
Ensuring objectivity in financial reporting
Equal treatment of shareholders
Ethical Governance: The Emerging Role of Company Secretaries as Ethics Officers