What does it mean to lead with integrity today?
Nokia was recently honored by the Ethisphere Institute1 – a leading organization devoted to corporate ethics and responsibility – as one of 2018’s “World’s Most Ethical” companies. Not quite like winning an Oscar or Grammy, but a fairly big deal in the world of corporate compliance. One of the questions we get most often on this topic is how such a thing could be measured. And it is a question that we do debate. After all, we are a big company, with more than 100,000 employees, doing business across the globe, in a variety of different businesses, so how can you measure the commitment to acting with integrity of such a large and varied organization? It seems peculiar, but this is an area where it is easier to detect the absence rather than the presence of the trait. Corporate scandals that regularly taint big banks, drug companies, auto makers and others demonstrate the point. Yet certainly, the absence of scandal, indictment, conviction, or embarrassing headlines is not a proper measure of corporate ethics and responsibility; that would be a depressingly low bar.
But Nokia is a technology company, and as a data-driven organization we are constantly measuring, even as to matters that would seem to defy precise measurement. So, we look to other indicators of a healthy, vibrant and ethical culture. We survey employees to make sure they know how to report compliance concerns (they do); whether they feel confident that they won’t face retaliation for doing so (they mostly do but there is room for improvement); and whether their managers regularly discuss the importance of ethics and compliance with their teams (same – most do but with room for improvement). And we’re always checking to see if our internal processes are good at detecting problems early, and addressing them responsibly whenever they do surface. It’s a given that organizations of our size and reach are going to have issues; the holy grail for compliance is spotting them early and fixing them before they spiral out of control.
Why are these the right things to measure? Because it is not enough for a compliance program to be effective if the compliance culture is weak. For example, recent months have seen the dramatic emergence of the #metoo movement, focusing on harassment and abuse suffered by women in the workplace. Time and again, we have seen companies called on the carpet for the lenient way they handled workplace misconduct cases in past years, before the movement shone a bright spotlight on such misbehavior. Had those organizations acted faithfully to basic core values – values such as respect, dignity, and accountability – they might well have avoided the messy headlines they find themselves in years later.
Happily, there’s a strong business case to be made for the value of ethical business practices. Increasingly in the global business environment, customers, suppliers and governments want to transact with partners they know will adhere to the highest standards of conduct. At Nokia, we think this means us, thanks to those thousands of employees, customers, partners and others who share these values.
1 Ethisphere, a global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical and responsible business practices, selected 135 companies, spanning 23 countries and 57 industries, as the 2018 winners of this prestigious award. Nokia is one of five companies in the telecommunications sector to receive the award. Ethisphere designates companies as among the “World’s Most Ethical” following an exhaustive, objective, and data-driven examination of the company’s ethics and compliance program, corporate citizenship and responsibility, culture of ethics, governance, and leadership, innovation and reputation.
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