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Mike Smith
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21 March, 2012

Michael Smith
Michael Smith
A new integrity charter mark for businesses and organisations, aimed at embedding ethical practice throughout their staff, was launched in the Mansion House in the City of London on 15 March. Investing in Integrity (IiI) has been developed by the UK’s Institute of Business Ethics and the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI), both non-profit bodies which promote ethics and integrity in business and finance.

Philippa Foster-Back, Director of the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE), said that Investing in Integrity aimed to help companies to act with integrity and ‘to know if your ethics programme is embedded’ throughout the organisation. ‘Companies which aim high in everything they do know the benefits of working ethically.’

To qualify, organisations go through a two-tear accreditation process, she said. First is an in- house Management Self-Assessment Survey of the organisation’s policies and procedures and the content of its code of ethics, conducted online; and secondly an external assessment which includes a review of documentary evidence and an employee survey, testing statements made in the earlier Management Survey, which is undertaken by GoodCorporation, IiI’s partner organisation in the process. Once approved, the charter mark is valid for five years, subject to annual verification, recognising that companies change their staff, structure and ownership. The IiI is available for whole organisations or for units within any sector, public or private. It is also cost effective, with a small annual subscription depending on the size of the organisation, Mrs Foster-Back said.

Simon Culhane, Chief Executive of CISI, asserted that ‘integrity is a boardroom agenda item and the perception of a lack of integrity is a competitive disadvantage.’ CISI had found that ‘there was quite a difference in what an individual felt was the right thing to do and what they felt their firm expected of them. There was almost a feeling that they checked in their moral compass at the security desk.’ There was, he said, ‘the need for a much closer link between people’s behaviour as individuals and as part of an organisation, and especially the need for demonstrable buy-in by the Board and senior management, who would not only set but display and support the right behaviours throughout the organisation. This is partly what Investing in Integrity is all about, ensuring that the right behaviour flows through the entire organisation, from the top to the bottom and in dealings with all stakeholders.’

The IiI charter mark has already been piloted in six organisations, including Balfour Beatty, the infrastructure and construction company which operates in over 80 countries, and IMI plc, the FTSE 100 global engineering group.

‘We have invested enormously in integrity over the last three to four years; it gives us a competitive advantage,’ said Jo Morgan, IMI’s Chief Compliance Officer, who received IiI’s first award presentation from Mrs Foster-Back and Mr Culhane. Declaring that the she was ‘really passionate’ about the need for integrity, Ms Morgan said: ‘We talk about the IMI Way and not just about codes of conduct.’ The GoodCorporation’s assessment had been ‘a really challenging process.’ It was ‘a great external verification tool’. The IiI award ‘is a badge of honour, some- thing to cherish.’ It was all about ‘doing the right thing when no one is looking’. IMI had just declared record results, and its share price had gone up from £4 in 2009 to £10 today.

The IiI process had taken IMI eight to nine months, Ms Morgan said, though Debbie Ramsey of GoodCorporation added that companies could take as long as they wished and may only carry out the first stage, self-assessment process before deciding if they wished to continue to external verification.

Andrew Hayward, head of ethics and compliance at Balfour Beatty, said that the company had gone through its own anti-corruption assessment procedures. The new Investors in Integrity charter mark was fundamentally about ‘behaving with integrity and being trustworthy’, he said. A principle advantage of the Investing in Integrity charter mark is that it gives an assurance of trustworthiness to clients, customers, investors and other stakeholders doing business with the organisation.

As Ian Tyler, Chief Executive of Balfour Beatty, comments: ‘Increasingly, organisations that are determined to conduct business ethically are seeking ways of demonstrating that commitment to customers and other stakeholders and gaining better assurance that their partners and suppliers share that commitment. This is true of both public and private sector organisations, which are increasingly aware of the legal and reputational damage that third parties can cause them, if they do not operate to the same ethical standards. We believe that Investing in Integrity can perform a valuable role in helping Balfour Beatty and other like-minded organisations to provide evidence of their commitment to act with integrity.’

The IiI charter mark follow earlier initiatives: ‘Investors in People’ launched in 1991, and the GoodCorporation Standard, launched in 2000, which encourages organisations to behave in ‘transparent, responsible ways’, and has accredited over 130 organisations in more than 40 countries.

CISI, launched 20 years ago, has 40,000 individual members in financial services. The IBE was launched in the Mansion House in 1986.

www.investinginintegrity.org.uk

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