The best way to avoid legal issues is to make sure that everyone in your organization knows and understands the practices and procedures they need to follow to remain compliant with all local, state, federal and industry regulations as well as regulations that may govern those in your company who do business in other countries. This information is often provided as part of a larger company ethics program.
A comprehensive ethics program can save your company considerable money in fines and legal costs as well as irreparable damage to your reputation. It can also let you communicate your corporate values to all employees as well as investors, vendors, customers and the public.
The best ethics programs are detailed and easily accessible. They should be available on your internal and external websites. You may even want to have an ethics handbook and appoint an ethics compliance officer who can be the go-to source for people who have questions or issues.
What should an ethics program address?
Your ethics program needs to address government compliance issues relevant to your industry. It may also address things like relationships with vendors (like the dollar amount limit on gifts) and private and public entities whose contracts you may bid on.
It’s often important for an ethics program to address a company’s responsibilities to its customers. This can help provide employees with clear expectations while communicating to customers what values your company holds.
These days, an ethics program should also address a company’s commitment to treating its employees with dignity and respect and an expectation that all employees at every level will do the same. A reiteration of the laws and company policies regarding discrimination and harassment is always a good idea.
Of course, an ethics program needs to be more than words. Employees, vendors and customers need to see that the company is living up to them. Sometimes, regular training sessions are held to reinforce the program and address any new laws or policies.
A comprehensive ethics program needs to be carefully considered to ensure that it addresses the issues relevant to your business. It’s wise to get legal guidance as you develop or modify yours.