Global Ethics and Compliance in Today's Plural-Culture Corporation

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In a global business landscape where maintaining a good corporate reputation has become an essential index of competitiveness, it's no longer enough to assert one's core business values - one must ensure these very values are internalized and lived across the company's geographical segments. Nicholas Goh, CEO of Verztec Consulting Pte Ltd, a leading Singapore-headquartered Global Content Management Services Provider, shares a tip sheet and explains why global enterprises peering into the future should put a premium on communicating company-wide principles in an encompassing yet culturally-sensitive way.

In a global business landscape where maintaining a good corporate reputation has become an essential index of competitiveness, it's no longer enough to assert one's core business values - one must ensure these very values are internalized and lived across the company's geographical segments. Nicholas Goh, CEO of Verztec Consulting Pte Ltd, a leading Singapore-headquartered Global Content Management Services Provider, explains why global enterprises peering into the future should put a premium on communicating company-wide principles in an encompassing yet culturally-sensitive way.

As companies today embrace the opportunity of expanding their operations globally, they are called to higher standards of business conduct in the marketplace, whether as a measure to steer clear of law enforcement action or a way to fortify a brand's mettle.

Any business owner worth his or her salt understands that an ethical blunder can do irreparable damage to one's corporate reputation, especially in an age when being global means being more exposed to public scrutiny.

True Colours Show

In the biggest bribery case in German history, Siemens paid around 2.5 billion euros in fines for bribing government officials and business contacts to win lucrative contracts in Russia and Nigeria. A look at the now-defunct Enron Corporation's downfall is to realize how ethically-misaligned practices do not just injure a company's growth prospects but also threaten its very existence.

Many companies do choose to take the high road, not just to avoid monetary losses and massive embarrassment, but because they understand that a good name is, in itself, an important strategic asset. As an example, not only has FedEx cemented its reputation by consistently delivering good logistics services worldwide, it has also boosted its brand equity through a cross-border ethics platform that substantiates its "Purple Promise" of reliability and integrity. Any individual that operates under the FedEx brand, wherever he or she may be, is expected to adhere to a standardized code of ethics. By institutionalizing this code, the company is sending a message to the world that it takes responsibility and accountability seriously. Not surprisingly, FedEx earned a spot in the top 10 trusted companies in the US in the Boston College-Reputation Institute 2009 CSR Index - a telling indication of the public's positive perception of the company.

The Perks of Doing Things Right

When it comes to doing business around the world, adhering to good business ethics offers strong returns on investments and greater profits. According to research by Ethisphere Institute, the companies on their 2009 World's Most Ethical Companies list have, as a whole, outperformed the S&P 500 companies in the same period.

Other benefits include:

1.    Companies that care experience better employee commitment and loyalty. Having a code of conduct gives a company's global workforce a common guidepost when faced with ethical issues.

2.    A good respect for the law. When the company adopts an ethical company culture, the subject becomes more important and, consequently, the company's personnel pay more attention to compliance with the laws and regulations affecting the organization.

3.    Greater harmony in behavior. Potential clients, recognizing greater transparency and professionalism, develop a greater trust in the company.

4.    Globally-ethical companies, thus, enjoy strong brand recognition and improved company reputation in all their markets.

5.    And ultimately, companies with clearly-defined, sound and standardized good business practices attract and help build strong business relationships.

Implementing Global Ethics and Legal Compliance

Truth, honesty and faith are all well and good, yet the importance of articulating them in different contexts without losing their univocal essence cannot be over-emphasized. Global enterprises are faced with the task of recognizing different social norms, abiding by localized laws, handling multicultural client bases, and relating to partners in multiple jurisdictions. The development process for a global ethics program should help the company learn more about their overseas counterparts, making it easier for both groups to become aware of and understand the various cultural differences.

It only makes sense, therefore, that the standardized code of ethics promoted across a company's global foothold must be well-articulated in the local languages.

The localization of corporate policies and ethics training materials should tackle cultural nuances - especially those related to doing business - such as tone, words, common gestures, taboos, and region-specific sensibilities. Employees learn and respond more positively to policies that make sense to them and relate to cultural familiarities.

Taking the Lead

While there may be a number of global companies out there still coming to grips with how to best articulate their ethical principles to all their branches, it is encouraging that companies that invest resources in the proper communication of their core values to stakeholders are steadily influencing other global players into reaping its rewards.

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Nicholas Goh
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