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Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance: It Can't Happen to Us—Avoiding Corporate Disaster While Driving Success by Richard M. Steinberg

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Chapter 4

Ethics Programs: Another Foundational Block

In Chapter 2 we looked at culture in the corporate environment and how some companies got it wrong and others right, and focused on the relevance of integrity in internal and external communications. Chapter 3 dealt with compliance programs—where some companies stumbled badly, and what constitutes effective programs. Here we build on those foundations, looking at ethical values and their impact on an organization, critical elements of effective ethics programs, and the role of the board of directors, including lessons learned from the recent events at Hewlett-Packard.

No, we don't see an E in GRC. But we know ethics is a critical underpinning of a company's culture and every aspect of governance, risk management, and compliance. Many companies now have ethics programs in place, either as part of or separate from their compliance processes. Some organize ethics activities as part of the legal counsel's office, some are separate. Companies may have a chief ethics officer and a chief compliance officer, some combine the two, and some have neither, with responsibility perhaps resting with the general counsel. Of course, as with most things, one size does not fit all, and each company must organize its activities as it sees fit.

With that said, we'll consider here what experience shows makes an ethics program truly effective. But before we do, let's return to a critical feature—a company's tone at the top.

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