Compliance Standards and Procedures

Communicating Values Across Cultures: Globalizing Your Code of Ethics

A key issue for ethics and compliance officers entrusted with the global effectiveness of their programs is to successfully disseminate organization-wide values and standards while taking into account the many cultures in which the company does business.

An increased awareness of the business case for high ethical standards, as well as recent anti-corruption laws in countries including France (Sapin II), Germany, Russia, China, and Brazil and legal mandates on human trafficking and environmental requirements, 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 understanding of or adaptation to the international locations where they operate. It is difficult to achieve buy-in when the ethics program is perceived locally as irrelevant or inappropriate. One of the most significant challenges when globalizing ethics and compliance programs is overcoming local employees’ belief that the company is trying to impose foreign values upon them—a kind of cultural imperialism.

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

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