A code of ethics to run good businesses

Published: December 3, 2012
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Any kind of illegal offer or payment to the government, third party vendors, regulators, existing or potential customers – or acceptance of the same from them – must be subject to prosecution. PHOTO: FILE

Any kind of illegal offer or payment to the government, third party vendors, regulators, existing or potential customers – or acceptance of the same from them – must be subject to prosecution. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: To keep the promises we make as a business, we need strong ethical values within our corporate culture. A formal code of ethics helps in this regard. It sets out exactly what is expected out of each member of an organisation, and where they should turn to for help and support. It should be the responsibility of every member of a corporate entity to fully embrace the codes of conduct laid out and conduct business with prudence.

In this piece, I would like to lay out 10 basic ethics that are essential for today’s corporations and their employees.

Observe group standards

All employees should ensure that they know all standards expected of them by their corporation. They should be aware of the intention, vision and minimum acceptable standard of performance envisioned by the organisation. This ensures that every employee follows the same rules and helps the organisation grow as it wishes to.

Comply with local laws

The country in which any company operates has its laws, statues, regulations, limitations, policies and mandates. Every individual must respect these as employees and work within prescribed limits as per guidelines or standard operating procedures. Whether it is a permanent role or a contractual agreement between the employer and employee, local laws have to be well-read and well-defined during the course induction by the employee relations department of every business.

Report breaches

It is the duty of every employee to ensure that they speak up against any breach of law, regulations or code of ethics by themselves or by any other member of their organisation so that the matter can be reviewed, investigated and the damage contained. This does not mean that employees wrongfully vilify others for personal grievances or in bad faith.

Cooperate with regulators

Transparency is the key to success with regulators. It is better to uncover a problem than to cover it up. Audit and compliance must be ensured by all employees at the workplace during the course of interaction with regulators. All banks, especially, have to comply with audit requirements as per the compliance operations manual. Strong long-term relationships with regulators will help the business achieve success and deliver a standardised product to the market.

Respect customer confidentiality

All clients and customers have the right to be well-served and well-protected, especially as far as their assets, funds, cash flows, personal information and reputation is concerned. Unless there is a case of fraud or forgery perpetrated by a client, all employees of a business must ensure a collective resolve to maintain a client’s right to secrecy of information and confidentiality. The only exception should be when client information is sought by a regulator or the government.

Ensure suitability of products

One of the major issues faced by customers is the lack of quality products and services. One must not sell an unsuitable product or service that does not meet the customer needs, or which may expose the company to a regulatory penalty, reputational damage or legal action by customers. The key to success lies with knowing your product well.

Advertise fairly

The reputational risk for a business is greatest when the media advertises its product without being fair and honest. Clarity of information and consistency of the message put forth is vital to ensure that people wish to buy and still pay the right price for a product.

Resolve customer complaints

Customer services make or break a business. Make sure that the customer services department ensures that the company is seen as efficient and caring towards customers, as opposed to being arrogant, ignorant or rude in any manner whatsoever. Being responsive to the customer is the hallmark of a good business, and ensures eventual financial and commercial success.

Reject bribery and corruption

The best employees are aware of the risks associated with corruption. Unawareness of the pitfalls of corrupt practices puts a business’ reputation at serious risk.  Any kind of illegal offer or payment to the government, third party vendors, regulators, existing or potential customers – or acceptance of the same from them – must be subject to prosecution.

Stay alert of fraud

Know your customer. Identification of the customer, their documentation, their personal references, previous work exposure, projects undertaken, reputation in the market, banking transactions must be scrutinised. This is necessary to ensure that the company is protected from fraudulent practices and insulates it from exploitation.

Everyone values relationships based on openness, trust and integrity. This holds true for business more than anything. All businesses must be constantly vigilant to ensure that they thrive on the back of practices that spread benefits, rather than contaminate everything around them.

THE WRITER IS A BANKER, FREELANCE WRITER ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, AND BROADCASTER FOR RADIO 1 FM 91

Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (3)

  • Dec 3, 2012 - 1:40PM

    i had observed in various education institutions and working organization where teachers and employee seen to more emphasizes in code of ethics and management but when their turn came they breach all limits of violating code of ethics and rule.its necessary we develop quality assessment cell to well monitor either in its education institutions or other profitable organization.

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  • Roohi Vora
    Jan 12, 2013 - 2:18AM

    This is a great article in which the code of ethics to conduct business is laid out in a very cogent and readable manner and is very commendable. I also agree with the commentator above that many who teach ethical values don’t often practice what they preach. As an educator myself, I am very much aware of my responsibilities in my field and conduct myself in a very ethical and professional way. I also want to clarify that educators at least, are evaluated not only by their peers, and a committee hired for such purposes, but also the students themselves. Other than that, I can only say that the rest depends on the person’s conscience as to how he/she may conduct himself/herself. If we can all take our responsibilities seriously, then as Zeeshan Shah says in the above article, we can keep the promises we make as a business.

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  • Roohi Vora
    Jan 12, 2013 - 2:47AM

    I enjoyed reading the article above because it is cogent and lists the code of ethics for running a business in a very efficient manner. Even a layman like myself, who doesn’t run a business, can understand the true meaning of being ethical. Appeal to ethos are the appeals to the underlying values and beliefs of the audience. As a customer or client I should be given the guarantee that I can believe in the credibility of the authority. As an educator myself, I would like to respond to the commentator whose comments appear above. I agree that some educators may not practice what they preach in terms of ethics and values, but at he same time, there is a system of evaluation that keeps that in check. We as educators are evaluated periodically not only by our peers and a committee set up for this specific purpose, but also by the students who are being taught by us. As far as personal character (in terms of ethics) is concerned, it depends on how conscious a person is and how responsibly he/she performs at his/her job to keep the promise to the students or the customers alike.

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