The risk of an ethics scandal is far too great for a CEO to ignore. The conventional approach is to publish a list of ethics guidelines and expect everyone in an organization to follow—but if there’s one thing we’ve learned this year, it’s simply not enough. At risk: the image of an organization and the finances of its stakeholders.
Call it the post-Harvey Weinstein era. The court of public opinion holds corporations accountable for saying one thing and doing another, says Patrick Quinlan, CEO of compliance management software company Convercent. Quinlan’s company operates a compliance and ethics cloud platform—think of it as a 21st century whistleblower hotline—for employees of businesses and governments around the world. It’s not just a matter of muddling through a scandal, he adds. It’s about an organization’s position in the marketplace.
After all, upholding good values is good for business. “This is what customers and employees want when they buy things,” Quinlan says. Businesses have the opportunity to lead the conversation on social issues, whether it’s Microsoft speaking out on immigration, Salesforce on LGBTQIA issues, or Delta on gun control.
Want to be proactive? Start by making sure that employees know their voice matters, Quinlan says. Over the last year, more than 200,000 interactions (from people in 138 countries) were recorded by Convercent’s ethics reporting system. More than one in three concerned child slavery, sexual harassment, bribery, or corruption—issues that any responsible leader would want to know about, let alone address, before it turned into a public relations nightmare.
Watch the video above for more from Fortune’s interview with Quinlan.
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