The Compliance Approach

Anywhere from light to forceful compliance is favored at companies whose managers lean toward being somewhat amoral but are highly concerned about having ethically upstanding reputations or are amoral and see strong compliance methods as the best way to impose and enforce ethical rules and high ethical standards. Companies that adopt a compliance mode usually do some or all of the following to display their commitment to ethical conduct: make the code of ethics a visible and regular part of communications with employees, implement ethics training programs, appoint a chief ethics officer or ethics ombudsperson, have ethics committees to give guidance on ethics matters, institute formal procedures for investigating alleged ethics violations, conduct ethics audits to measure and document compliance, give ethics awards to employees for outstanding efforts to create an ethical climate and improve ethical performance, and/or install ethics hotlines to help detect and deter violations. Emphasis here is usually on securing broad compliance and measuring the degree to which ethical standards are upheld and observed. One of the weaknesses of the compliance approach is that moral control resides in the company’s code of ethics and in the ethics compliance system rather than in an individual’s own moral responsibility for ethical behavior.

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