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How to establish a robust ethics and compliance program

Global Compact Network Canada has published “Designing an Anti-Corruption Compliance Program - A Guide for Canadian Businesses” which suggests that in order to have an effective compliance program some very important questions need to be addressed and documented:


a) Does the CEO have the requisite skills and experience to move the organization forward?

b) Does the CEO possess the character and moral fibre to model and contribute to the development of a values-centered enterprise and strategy?

c) Does the CEO have the chemistry and communication skills necessary to rally others to successfully and consistently deliver on the organization’s value proposition to all stakeholders?

d) Does the organization support the ethical culture and anti-corruption compliance program through training and communication, which includes allowing employees to raise ethics and corruption compliance issues without fear of retaliation?

e) What is the process for assessing ethics and corruption compliance risks within the organization?

f) Have they updated their policies, procedures and internal controls to address emerging risks (e.g., cyber risk, anti-corruption)?

g) Does the current ethics and anti-corruption compliance program cover the organization’s global operations, including management, employees, shareholders, customers, subcontractors, business partners and vendors?

h) Does the organization have an ethics and compliance officer?

i) Does a reporting and monitoring process keep the board of directors informed of key ethics and corruption compliance issues, as well as the actions taken to address them?

j) Are ethics and corruption compliance issue a regular item on the board agenda?


Here are some practical suggestions that may be useful to Board members and senior executives:

  • Sustained leadership on transparency and integrity is vital.

  • Strong anti-corruption measures and repeated staff training is crucial.

  • The compliance office must be answering directly to the CEO and report to the Board.

  • When allegations occur, move quickly with a forensic audit and external investigation, and if criminal issues are uncovered turn them over to the appropriate authorities.

  • Ensure that the staff remuneration is not an incentive to sell contracts at all cost.

  • Make it clear in documentation that this is a “clean” company that does not bribe – this has been demonstrated to be a deterrent for bribe asking.

  • Include in the external audit a review of the compliance on anti-corruption measures.

  • Ensure full transparency in contract management.

  • Publish who the real beneficial owners of their company and subsidiaries are.

  • Beware of transfer pricing and tax evasion since it creates impoverishment in countries where the company is working; especially in the natural resources sector and in poorer countries.

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