Compliance Standards and Procedures

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Communicating Values Across Cultures: Globalizing Your Code Of Ethics

A key problem for Ethics and Compliance Officers charged with making their programs effective on a global scale is how to successfully disseminate organization-wide values and standards while taking account of the many cultures in which the company does business.

An increased awareness of the business case for high ethical standards, as well as legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and the UK Bribery Act, have been drivers for ensuring global consistency within ethics and compliance programs. It is now more important than ever that an organization clearly communicates its values, commitments and standards wherever it operates.

However, many companies launch their programs from their head office without proper adaptation to the international locations where they do business. It is difficult to achieve buy-in when the ethics program is perceived locally to be irrelevant or inappropriate. One of the most significant challenges when globalizing ethics and compliance programs is overcoming the belief by local employees that the company is trying to impose foreign values upon them; a kind of “cultural imperialism.” As a result, they may also believe that the company is dismissive of local culture and customs. Politics and international policy among nations can serve to solidify this perception.

The key to addressing these issues is for companies to approach cultural differences with sensitivity and open mindedness. This may not only reduce conflict at the local level, but also improve the overall efficacy of the program, even within the home country.

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