Blowing the whistle
Written by: Renée LeMoine
Photo by: V&V
“As a local buyer for a professional services firm, it is very disenchanting to discover that our international director is often accepting gifts such as complimentary air tickets from a supplier for his biased selection of their services.
As the Czech Republic is often singled out for engaging in corrupt business practices, foreign managers should be especially wary of setting bad examples. Rather than waiting for better laws and public education programs to change behaviors and attitudes, companies must initiate internal policies to minimize damage within their own sphere of control. Your example is good cause for proposing a corporate responsibility plan to executive management.
Doing so will improve the image of your company in the eyes of the media, consumers, and employees, consequently giving your team an advantage on the market. According to ethics expert Ronald Berenbeim, a business practices program often includes:
- Defining what constitutes wrongdoing. It is critical to classify inappropriate conduct using examples and case studies given that interpretations can vary widely. Typical fraud scenarios include gifts, entertainment practices, propriety payments for “facilitating” administrative procedures, and insider investment information.
- Institutionalizing and conveying whistle-blowing policies and procedures. All employees should receive written copies of the company’s confidentiality and whistle-blower protection policies in addition to training on identifying and reporting misconduct. Discussion forums and open-door policies with executive management and objective third party members should be standard.
- Making information freely available to all employees including part-timers and contractors, suppliers, and customers. Encourage suppliers and customers to report unprofessional business practices.
- Facilitating the whistle-blowing process. Put a highly trained corporate business practice manager in place with full responsibility and convictions for assuring that the program works. Larger companies may want to consider offering an advice and reporting hotline.
Reference source: Company Programs for Resisting Corrupt Practices: A Global Study (New York: The Conference Board, 2000.)
Article prepared by Renée LeMoine, Executive Director, LeMoine & Associates