How should Boards Promote an Ethical Business Culture?

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Joëlle Warren
Founding Partner and EOT Chair, Warren Partners

The Institute of Business Ethics is currently consulting on guidance for developing an ethical business culture.

What areas do you think Boards should be considering if they want to promote an ethical business culture within their companies?

VocL Voices’ Responses

Farah Janmohamed
Co Founder & Director Wren Laboratories Ltd

A Board which wants to promote an ethical business culture needs to take these five steps: 1. Create strong and clear values, ethics and governance structures 2. Lead by example, letting these values shape decision making. 3. Implement effective training for all line managers and HR on such values, ethics & conduct 4. Constantly communicate & reinforce this messaging across the wider business 5. Integrate ethical performance metrics into the company’s overall performance evaluation system.

Vincent Egunlae
Assistant Manager – M&A, Grant Thornton UK LLP

Boards should consider adopting a balanced scorecard approach to performance, which assesses non-financial KPI’s to determine overall success. An ethical business culture is one which promotes sustainable, long-term growth, with a diverse and inclusive workforce and businesses need to consider non-financial areas to achieve this.

Richard Sansom
East Midlands Network Director, Cadent Gas

Boards are the guardians of corporate integrity, so promoting ethical culture is essential. Transparency is key; open lines of communication about ethical expectations are a must. Second, boards should ensure a solid ethics/compliance program is in place, with regular audits to identify lapses. Then, there’s leadership by example: leaders need to “walk the talk,” embodying the ethical values they wish to promote. Lastly, boards need to foster a ‘just’ culture where employees feel safe to raise concerns.

Sion Lewis
Associate, Arup

Boards need to lead by example to ensure ethical considerations are embedded into company strategies and decision-making. An ethics committee or oversight panel can allow monitoring and reporting of decisions to ensure consistent considerations of ethics. Being transparent and communicating these decisions is key to influence the companies’ workforce to align but also publicly communicating can increase the sphere of influence to other organisations including supply/partner organisations. Publicising initiatives also demonstrates that the company is not purely profit driven but does consider its own responsibilities in the wider context.

Genta Haxhija
Social Impact Project Manager, Bruntwood

I believe boards should be actively engaged in volunteering initiatives within their firms and enable their workforce by offering paid hours to support the community if they are not already doing so. Senior engagement in this will send a clear message that community is important. The relationships formed with these charities have the potential to be hugely beneficial both on a personal and business level if they are championed in the right way.

Justine Ball
Partner, Shakespeare Martineau LLP / AMPA

I feel there are two key areas that Boards should be considering if they want to promote an ethical business culture. The first is their carbon footprint. Climate change and our impact on the environment is at the forefront of suppliers’, employees’ and clients’ minds. So it is key your business has a robust yet genuine green agenda. The second area is community outreach. Having a positive impact in your community where opportunities can be made and initiatives introduced to improve the locality.

Lara Tabet
Associate, Arup

To promote an ethical business culture in their company, both could incorporate this aspect in various areas including: recruitment (ensuring the relevant questions are asked at interviews, particularly for more senior recruits), business development and bidding procedure, business as usual and project review procedures, and finally establishing psychological safety and transparency within the company where challenges can be discussed for ethical decisions to ultimately be made and understood as such.

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