Unless more companies establish an "ethics culture," the 75 percent of business students that admitted to cheating before their admission to a graduate school in a recent Rutgers University Survey of Students could shake up a few Fortune 500 companies in the next 20 years.
Eric Feldman, CFE, CIG, and senior advisor to the director for procurement integrity for the National Reconnaissance Office, encourages ethics officers and executives to create an ethics culture based on company values and best practices.
“An ethics culture has to be a culture used by everyone within a company,” Feldman said. “It has to become the fabric of that company. You don’t want to have to rely on whistle-blowers and hotlines; you want the values of an organization to permeate the whole company, from the top to the bottom.”
Whether through performance pressure to reach unrealistic goals at all costs, or through rewarding unethical behavior with added compensation, managers can be their own worst enemies.
According to Feldman, the success of a company’s ethics and compliance program begins with the “tone at the top.”
“The tone at the top is when the executives and leaders of companies are walking the talk,” Feldman said. “When you have executives who don’t talk about ethics and integrity, or speak about it only at certain times, or they talk about it but then their actual behavior is inconsistent, then it feeds a natural cynicism among employees. They see something that is all show and no substance.”
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