Conscious capitalism

Philip Winterburn, Chief Strategy Officer, of Convercent by OneTrust partnered up with Anna and Niina to share his thoughts on the future of compliance. This blog post is connected to Philip’s EthicsTalk podcast (published in mid December). Together with Anna and Niina, Philip explores the implications for the ethics and compliance profession and industry.

We find ourselves living at a fascinating time in the evolution of society. This is clearly
illustrated by the emergence of conscious capitalism (aka stakeholder capitalism) into the
mainstream, recognizing the growing pressure from employees, consumers, and society at large for businesses to embrace a higher cause, to live by a set of declared values and to provide value to all stakeholders.

Better world through conscious capitalism

Historically, capitalism has been at odds with the nature of man. As individuals we have
compassion, we nurture, and we behave altruistically. We can even do this in the harshest of situations, as strikingly described in Eyal Press’s Beautiful Souls. As corporations, however, we have ignored the suffering of so many in the pursuit of profit and growth. In fact, in many cases, we have deliberately relied on the exploitation of many to achieve those profits and that growth.

The rise of conscious capitalism, also reflected by the increasing focus on ESG, shows a path to a better world. A world where companies provide rich and meaningful careers for their employees, offer opportunities, and pay a fair wage irrespective of ethnicity, gender, or other bias; a world where the organization contributes to society in a meaningful way, minimizes and mitigates its impact on the environment and ensures growth at any cost is not the mantra; a world where the organization governs its practices and behaviors appropriately. A better world, less focused on rules but more on the principles of how work is done, and business transacted. A better world, constantly ensuring adherence to its core values.

In this idealized world, we would all have visibility to the behaviors and impacts of
organizations. We could choose to purchase from, work for, or partner with the very best and in so doing, we would create a virtuous cycle where “good” companies flourish and corrupt flounder.

This idealized world is not too far away; we already see many organizations that adhere to these principles flourishing…and we see some of their counterparts floundering.

Building blocks of the future

For this to continue, we need to invest in increased transparency so our decisions can be well informed by the facts that are presented. We see great examples of this with ESG reporting and the World Economic Forum’s Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics.

When we dissect what will enable a company to thrive in this new world, we find it comes down to:

  • A strong culture founded on core values and ethical behavior
  • A common sense of purpose, a north star that all can steer towards
  • Leadership that engenders the values and mission in their every act and word

When a company acts consistently in accordance with its values, when it steers unwaveringly towards its north star to achieve a higher purpose, when all leaders in the organization act in accordance with the shared mission, then I as an employee trust that I will be well treated and nurtured, I as a consumer know that I can trust the products I buy, and I as a member of society trust you will not ravage my surroundings.

Compliance professionals as drivers

The ethics and compliance professional is uniquely positioned to step into this conversation. We have unparalleled visibility into the drivers of employee behavior (both good and bad). We also have learned from behavioral science, the tools needed to shape behavior and change cultures.

We have learned that branding and marketing our ethics and compliance programs raises their effectiveness. Better able to capture the attention of our stakeholders, we are more likely to land a message and change behavior.

We have learned that data is king and opinions are ephemeral. Leading CECOs now walk into their boardrooms armed with insights about the business instead of dull metrics on helpline call volume.

To achieve all this requires a significant shift in the ethics and compliance teams that we see in many organizations today. I strongly believe that the ethics and compliance team of the future is not one staffed solely by lawyers, but an interdisciplinary team incorporating additional new skills such as data science and analytics, behavioral science and psychology, marketing and communications, and change management.

I think this is a very exciting time for our profession. We have an unique opportunity to seize this moment…and if we miss it, we will have only ourselves to blame. These trends and more are explored in the EthicsTalk podcast with Anna and Niina (podcast to be published in mid December).

If you want to listen more, make sure you check out the podcast section of our media treasure vault. Happy rummaging!

Convercent by OneTrust is on a mission to drive ethics to the center of business. Convercent helps companies promote an environment of respect and trust by making it easier for your employees to speak up, increase the reach of your E&C program to deliver relevant messaging company wide and gain the ability to impact culture in the face of organizational change. We help you use data analytics to make informed decisions quickly and efficiently. Protect and elevate your brand by strengthening your company’s brand resiliency, customer loyalty, & customer acquisition.
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