Making Compliance More Intrinsic to the Business

November 14, 2018 Ben DiPietro

In Tuesday's E&C Pulse newsletter the topic was whether ethics and compliance does a satisfactory job in making sure the company's leadership knows that companies that behave better tend to make more money than those that don't.

I asked Louis Sapirman, a compliance and legal executive and former chief compliance officer for Dun & Bradstreet Corp., why this message wasn't resonating. He said one reason is the disconnect between the desire for long-term sustainable success and the mandate to produce strong results each quarter.

“The fact long-term results can be impacted by effective ethics and compliance may not ultimately be the driver of the decisions, if the decisions mostly are being made on a short-term basis,” he said.

Picking up the conversation where it ended in the newsletter, I asked Sapirman who else ethics and compliance can enlist to help them make this argument.

"I don’t think compliance can be effective without having excellent working relationships with legal, internal audit, strategy, HR and technology," said Sapirman. "I would go as far to say that those parts of the organization have to have some direct ownership over your overall compliance program. They have to be invested."

That means building structures within the organization so that any success compliance achieves is seen as their success, he said.

"It's not just having a really good relationship and going to lunch with the guys--that's important, you need to be able to pick up the phone and have an easy conversation--but I think you have to be more overt to ensure you care about their success as much as they do, and that they care about your success as much as you do."

And forging a strong relationship with sales is maybe the most important task for ethics and compliance, he said. "If you don’t focus on sales, focus on helping make them successful, there are just too many opportunities for them to fail on their own," he said. "And their failure is your failure."

In the end, it's about making compliance more intrinsic to the business, so that business sees compliance as a natural part of its operation, said Sapirman, who said the path to making that happen is education.

"I would start with how we are educating business leaders. If you look at business schools, law schools, they need to start taking compliance more into account and into their curriculum," he said.

That doesn't mean creating a course in business ethics, but building compliance and ethics into all courses and learning experiences. This way, when the business leaders of the future enter the workforce, "compliance is not seen as something that is new, it is seen as something intrinsic to the success of business," said Sapirman.

And compliance needs to be more comfortable doing things differently, it needs to be willing to step outside its comfort zone to see how business is being conducted and how people are communicating, then make use of those insights, he said.

"People need to be willing to break the model of how things are done to do truly great things, and that’s where the compliance profession finds itself," said Sapirman.

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