In today’s increasingly competitive retail climate, much of the value of a company is built on its reputation. That reputation, which is at the very heart of an organization, resides in its employees. However, that commitment must have its foundation with the top management in the company. It must start with the support of the chief executive and be supported, managed and practiced by all of our corporate executives if we hope to find support in the stores.
Most leading companies no longer debate the importance of ethics in the workplace; rather they are forging ahead, exploring new ways to put ethics escalators into practice. Companies that once viewed business ethics only in terms of legal compliance and adherence to internal policies and procedures now see this role in a new and different light. Today, we live in a different world. Attention to ethical business practices is at the forefront, and many companies realize that in order to succeed they must earn the respect and confidence of their customers, their employees and their business partners.
Upper management is expected to improve company business practices to emphasize ethical standards and behavior. A company’s image, its business practices, its vision for the future and its role in the community are all validated by the organization’s business ethics. Growth plans, stability, profits and service must emphasize a commitment to ethical business practices. Both companies and business professionals alike are being held increasingly accountable for their actions as demands for higher standards of corporate social responsibility continue to rise.
Understanding that the services we provide require the highest standards of professionalism, integrity and competence, Loss Prevention professionals should strive to uphold the integrity and dignity of the profession, to advance the effectiveness of the company and to serve appropriately and respectfully in everything that we do. But those same values must be embedded at every level of corporate leadership. As we consider the fundamental purposes of our company, we cannot overshadow the obligation that we have to our shareholders, our employees, our customers, our business partners and our communities in general to remain socially responsible and ethically grounded in the way that we conduct our business.
Implementing Ethical Standards
The need for ethics in the workplace is the same as the need for ethical principles in our society as a whole; and conforming to accepted standards of behavior are beneficial to everyone. We want to promote high standards of practice, implement a benchmark for evaluation and establish a framework for professional principles, behaviors and responsibilities.
In 1991 the United States enacted the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines. These guidelines essentially outlined judicial considerations when determining the appropriate sentencing for corporations convicted of federal crimes. As part of this innovative legislation, the judicial system would bear in mind whether the convicted company had taken appropriate steps to prevent and detect violations through effective compliance programs. Based on these Sentencing Guidelines, it was determined that an effective compliance program should include the following elements:
• Written compliance standards and procedures (Ex: A Code of Ethics)
• Oversight of the program by high level management personnel (Ex: An Ethics Officer
• Due care and responsibility when delegating authority
• Effective Communication of standards and procedures (Ex: A Training Program)
• Monitoring systems and reporting vehicles (Ex: An Employee Hotline)
• Enforcement of disciplinary action
• Appropriate response to issues once they have been detected
While certainly not the sole motivation, this legislation helped to provide the incentive for thousands of companies to create and/or modify their business ethics and compliance programs. These programs are responsible for communicating, monitoring and enforcing company values and standards at every level within the organization, and typically provide a formal statement of the organization’s values regarding many ethical and social issues.
Some set out general principles about an organization’s values and beliefs on topics such as product quality, employee conduct or customer service. Others spell out procedures regarding specific ethical issues. And while each program is unique, most tend to share a number of common features. But despite the specific style or content, the effectiveness of such codes still depends on the extent to which they are supported by company management at all levels. Such standards of conduct state the values and principles that we are committed to as an organization and embody the framework for the ethical responsibilities that we all hold in the evolving retail environment.
By capitalizing on opportunities to enhance our knowledge and education, we are making an investment in our own future. To learn more about ethics in the workplace and the certification process, visit losspreventionfoundation.org.