Ethics and compliance professionals have long understood that a policy by itself is useless. It’s the sustained effort to implement the policy and an aligned culture that leads to compliance. This is not only true of corporate policies, but also of laws in countries around the world.
Yet, many still seem to believe that simply having a policy is enough, and decline or neglect to invest enough effort into making the policy truly effective. It’s like a race where the finish line is established but there’s no clear path to get there.
For example, in India, despite its Constitution and subsequent laws over many decades prohibiting discrimination, lower caste Indians are still attacked – beaten, killed, stoned – for wearing the wrong shoes, riding a horse, sitting cross-legged, or changing a name on social media, as reported by the BBC. Perpetrators often walk away scot-free.
In China, despite various agreements and laws since 1979 protecting intellectual property, enforcement has been (deliberately and strategically, some would argue) lax and uneven. Only recently, perhaps because international pressure has mounted and China has developed enough of its own IP to protect, enforcement is seen as improving.
Some corporations develop policies that serve to placate regulators and investors but invest little to implement and enforce them, and feign surprise when violations happen.
Yes, having a policy or law is better than having nothing. But it’s only the first step toward getting the desired behavior from employees and citizens alike. As corporations declare their strong values and ethical standards, they must recognize and invest in the efforts it takes to lend truth to those statements.
What is your company doing to align behavior and culture with policy?
Contact Principle Compliance if you wish to improve the effectiveness of your company’s policies.