principled behavior is to work with the legal department and, most importantly, the C-suite—and, of
course, to act in an ethical manner yourself.
That said, Milliken’s leaders also understand that
acting responsibly is about more than compliance. A
statement on its website about ethics acknowledges
that no code of conduct can ever cover every thorny
situation or circumstance, so it is ultimately up to every
employee to do what is right. “We do not simply follow
the letter of the law; we follow and exceed the spirit of
the law,” the statement reads.
It starts at the top. Senior leaders must act decisively
to boost corporate integrity. If they are ambivalent or,
worse, engage in unsavory behavior, there’s little chance
that an ethical atmosphere will ;ourish.
GOOD FOR THE BOTTOM LINE T he bene;ts of an ethical culture extend beyond banners and bragging rights. Stock prices of the companies that Ethisphere recognized this year
outperformed the U. S. Large Cap Index by nearly 5 percent from 2015 to 2017.
At Milliken, integrity is important throughout the
ranks, Haydamack says, though the signi;cance rises
with the corporate hierarchy. Bad conduct at the top of
the ladder can have a much more serious impact than
a failing of a junior sta;er.
“One bad decision can cost a huge amount of money
and put us in the news in a negative way,” he explains.
Most companies seem to be failing at either infusing integrity into the ethos or communicating the importance of ethics to their workers. Only 21 percent
of employees believe they work in a business with a
strong ethical culture, according to the results of the
2017 Global Business Ethics Survey published by the
Ethics & Compliance Initiative.
What’s more, 40 percent said their companies had
weak or weak-leaning ethics;a number that has remained consistent since 2000.
“I think companies assume that they are doing well,
but they aren’t putting enough e;ort into the culture
they want to establish,” Harned says. “Leaders always
have a rosier view than is actual reality.”
LEADERS SET THE TONE A universal attribute among all the ;rms Ethisphere has recognized over the years is a leadership team committed to doing what’s right, says Erica
Salmon Byrne, executive vice president of compliance
and ethics at the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based organization.
“We’ve tried to ;gure out if we can ;nd a trend in
HOW TO DEVELOP AN
size or industry, but we haven’t found any,” she says. “It’s
about the leaders and the board members standing up
and saying, ‘This is who we are.’ ”
Values held by the C-suite must be pushed down
Create a detailed code of conduct.
Include the consequences for breaking the rules and ensure
that the standards are widely available to employees.
Hold regular training sessions.
Highlight the importance of ethical behavior
and allow sta; to ask questions.
Weave the company’s ethics policy into conversations about
other corporate issues.
Reinforce the idea that the values are central
to the organization’s mission.
Celebrate displays of outstanding integrity.
Update the company principles regularly.
Make sure they reflect societal changes and concerns.
Set up multiple channels for people to report misconduct.
Include hotlines or other methods that allow for anonymity.
Act decisively when the code has been violated.
Survey employees regularly.
Learn their impressions of the culture and
what changes they want to see.