Organisational Ethics Part 2

In the previous blog, I interviewed Dr Janette Minnaar-van Veijeren, founding director of ProEthics (Pty) Ltd. Today, I share the second part of the interview that deals with the practical aspects of organisational ethics. During my corporate career as the company secretary of the social and ethics committee and the chairperson of the ethics task team, I had the privilege of working closely with Dr Minnaar-van Veijeren as a corporate consultant and can highly recommend the services of ProEthics.

 

Janette obtained her LLD, LLB and BLC degrees from the University of Pretoria, where she was admitted as an advocate of the South African High Court in 1991. Her social contributions include serving as a director on the board of the Ethics Institute, serving as head judge of the South African Professional Services Awards (SAPSA), mentoring young professionals and many more. As a true expert in her field, Janette has had the privilege to train the boards of some of the most successful companies in South Africa.

 

In this blog, we continue the interview with Janette, drawing on her experiences and perspectives as an expert.

 

  1. What structures can an organisation use to promote ethical behaviour?

One of the ways to ensure that an ethical culture or a culture of integrity is embedded is to establish an ethics office in the organisation. The office would be headed up by a chief ethics officer with assistance from various ethics champions. This office therefore becomes a hub or centre where employees can seek advice when they face ethical dilemmas. It is vital that the leadership team is seen as supportive of organisational values and ethical initiatives. It should support the ethics office financially to, for example, conduct training or to engage the assistance of external ethics facilitators. The Companies Act and regulations require that organisations with a turnover of more than R500 million per annum or more than 500 staff members establish a social and ethics committee. This is a board committee that is responsible for initiating and reporting on the ethics initiatives taken by the company.

 

  1. Mention some of the elements or steps of an ethics management programme or an action plan.

This is the practical side of ethics management. Ethical leadership teams often get stuck with the challenge of how to institutionalise ethics in the workplace. Other questions are, for example – do we have properly constituted values and do our staff members know what the values mean in daily work life? The chosen organisational values should be formalised in such a way that the company would be proud to share the document (ethics statement) with staff and external stakeholders.

The next step is to implement the values. This happens when the organisation starts with ethics awareness training and value-based decision-making training. Third parties or high-risk business partners could be included in the training. This will set a clear tone of what the expected standard ethical behaviour is in the organisation.

 

Also ensure that you update, revise or draft ethics-related policies. These include among others an anti-corruption policy, a gift policy, a conflict-of-interest policy and a reporting policy. It is essential that employees are able to safely and anonymously report wrongdoing in the organisation. The organisation must make a clear commitment that bona fide reports will be investigated. If there is truth to the allegations, clear and decisive disciplinary action should be taken against wrongdoers. Where the conduct is criminal, civil action may be taken to recover losses and a criminal complaint laid at the police.

 

  1. What other steps can be taken to build a culture of integrity?

Another step of encouraging ethical behaviour is to reward good ethical behaviour, to ensure that those who are seen to be ethical are the ones who reap the benefits. Apply ethics screening or integrity testing in the employment process. This will attract employees who share the same values. Where there are ethical failures, the company must commit to taking disciplinary action. It must correct wrongful behaviour to demonstrate its commitment to ethical behaviour. A company can also use ethics surveys or health assessments to ascertain what the true state of its ethical culture is.

 

Finally, continuously communicate your ethical standards. Ethics training is not a once-off event. There must be a constant message from leadership that it is committed to create and maintain  a culture of integrity to benefit internal and external stakeholders.

 

  1. How do you motivate your co-workers/staff/team members to adhere to ethical regulations?

By rewarding them, but also making sure that failures will have negative consequences. Most of all, set the right example, irrespective of your seniority or rank.

 

If you want to build an ethical culture, ProEthics can assist you with a wide range of ethics services such as ethics surveys, ethics investigations, and the implementation of ethical policies and frameworks. Okina can assist with setting up a social and ethics committee, relevant task teams, the drafting of agendas, checklists, terms of reference and committee administration. For more information, you can contact Janette on www.proethics.co.za and Okina on www.okinacosec.co.za or info@website15.pixelreview.co.za.

 

I hope that we have inspired you to embrace and implement ethics in your organisation.

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