Based on H. Bundtland we understand as sustainability (as medium level of Maslow’s pyramid): “Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to their own needs.”
Hereby is the compliance strategy an important part of sustainability, what is also easy to be explained. If you leave any ethical thoughts aside for a moment, the task of a Compliance department is simple to avoid that the company is engaged in any un-lawful business, which can have a million dollar fine or a black-listing as result; and with this risking the company’s prosper future. For this compliance and sustainability are part of the company’s middle and long range strategy. The problem hereby, a human being and a company think in other time dimensions. 5 years for a 100 years old company is nothing, but for the employee in 5 years you can be in a complete new situation of life; marriage, new-born baby, house sale, child in high-school or university, etc.
Clean business is important for the company, to be still successful in the market in 10 years, but a lot of employees are not planning that far on the long run. For them the question how to pay the summer holidays can be already on the long run. That is why we have to be aware that a (very) small part of our employees might be motivated to take an ethical short-cut.
Needs are nothing fixed and nothing objective. For example the marketing business spends lots of money not just inform us which new products are out there, but also on the emotional level, make us wanting them, making us aware of needs we maybe not felt before. Emotions and the creation of needs are both, an opportunity and also risk for the corporate compliance.
An employee may not always be fully aware of what is motivating her or him. Group pressure, for example can be a motivational factor. First you may see this as a risk, but you can protect employees against such ethical blindness.
The Godfather’s advice “A man who is not a father to his children can never be a real man.” supports us in two ways:
- Being a father or mother enlarges the employee’s scope for the private planning, as now it is not enough to plan for the own life, but also the possibilities for the next generation, at least until end of school and /or university. As more than just one life depends on you, your involvement in the decision makings goes up and the individual in average takes more time to process additional information, before a decision gets made. This reduces the risk that the employees gets rushed into a bad decision.
- Family and children is a center point for the employee. Without this private construction, employees feel less need for private life and in average spend more time in office and business. Such high concentration on your tasks may provoke a “tunnel vision”. For this it is imperative that employees take their breaks and have sufficient leisure-time, to relax, get other ideas and, if possible, process experiences and talk with trusted third parties, as a family member.
A company which works with such a philosophy is the Atlanta based fast-food chain “Chick-fil-A”. Company founder S. Truett Cathy built up the restaurant chain, which differs from its competitors: All franchisees have to accept that the restaurants stay closed on Sundays. With that the employees and potential clients have the possibility to visit mess and spend quality time with the family. Franchise costs are relative low in relation to other fast food restaurants, but therefor Chick-fil-A expect their franchisees to be active in the local Christian communities and even include their restaurant here, for example offering free breakfasts for the poor or space for learning groups. With this the company not only supports Christian believes, but also get emotional settled employees. Due to Cathy, married workers are more industrious and productive. “If a man can’t manage his own life, he can’t manage a business.” With this philosophy Chick-fil-A not only interviews the potential restaurant operators, but also their spouses and children. Of course with this politics, the company faces also criticism and charges of employment discrimination, but so far, state and federal laws not forbid their company philosophy.
If you enter in one of their restaurants in the US or Brazil, you get the impression that quality, service and cleanness have a higher standard than at the competition. So the decision where to eat and where not, is with the customer. At the end, beside philosophy and values, it reduces the employee risk factor. But if we go back to the beginning, it makes clear that such a strategy also not automatically leads to positive effects, as Mario Puzo’s Mafia had no problems to combine their business with integrity and faith.
- Brundtland, H.: “ Our common future”, 1987, part of the Brundtlandreport
- Henz, Patrick (2017): “Compliance is a Race Car.”
- Puzo, Mario (1969): The Godfather
- Small, Emily (2007): “The Cult of Chick-fil-A”