Every crisis is an opportunity

In an article for the Institute of Business Ethics, four well-respected ethics practitioners (Sally March, Jane Mitchell, Robert Smith and Ruth Steinholtz) argue that now is the time for ethics and compliance practitioners to lift their horizons, leverage their unique perspective of risk, governance and sustainability across their organisations, and take a more central role in addressing today’s business challenges. The alignment of purpose, values and culture will be fundamental for longer-term business success, and ethics and compliance functions can earn their seat at the top table by helping their boards and leadership teams bring that alignment to life.

The pandemic has forced businesses to reflect on purpose and values as well as strategies and objectives. It has brought to the fore the need for companies to treat their workforce in a way that is empathetic, fair and transparent. It has also been empowering, allowing individuals to climb out of the constraints of their roles and challenge established approaches. Ethics and compliance professionals have a huge role to play in influencing and encouraging colleagues to do the right thing. Homeworking has required much greater levels of trust and it has been more important than ever for organisations to be listening and learning when colleagues speak up, and to be actively monitoring their welfare.

Breaking down silos and connecting the dots across the organisation has never been more important. But to earn their seat at the table and make this happen, ethics and compliance practitioners also need to redefine their roles and recognise the need for new ways of thinking, towards those based on trust rather than the traditional focus on control. The article ends with a suggested set of actions for individuals to make the most of the opportunity.

More: ibe.org.uk/resource/article-covid19crisisoropportunity.html – including the full article (PDF).

Recruiting and Training Your Ambassadors: It’s All About the People

All your burning questions answered – including how to:

  • Recruit the right people
  • Formalize the network to reflect your organization’s culture
  • Ensure your ambassadors have the skills and resources they need to be effective

At the one-day virtual SCCE conference on Leading an Effective Ethics & Compliance Ambassadors Program – I’ll be there alongside:

We hope to see you there! Sign up today:


Leading an Effective Ethics & Compliance Ambassadors Program

Extend the reach of your compliance and ethics program

Whether you call yours an “Ambassadors Program”, “Champions Program”, or “Liaison Program”, they all do the same thing—spread awareness and broaden the reach of your compliance and ethics program by using businesspeople as extra arms, legs, and ears.

Join us on 14 October 2021 for this one-day virtual conference, Leading An Effective Ethics & Compliance Ambassadors Program. Through sessions led by industry leaders, you’ll examine different state-of-the-art ambassador programs and ways to improve (or even launch) your own program.

Hot topics

  • Successfully navigating the changing landscape for ambassador programs
  • Optimizing the structure of your program to maximize effectiveness
  • Recruiting and training your ambassadors: It’s all about the people
  • Inspiring, sustaining, and expanding the network in the medium and long term and building in continuous improvement
  • Communicating with the wider workforce
  • Metrics and assessing your program’s effectiveness

Who should attend?

Compliance and ethics professionals

How do I sign up?

Right here: corporatecompliance.org/2021ComplianceAmbassadorProgram

Westminster eForum: Policy priorities for supporting emerging technology

Matt Hervey and I are on a panel at an upcoming Westminster eForum this November – and it’ll be a wide-ranging discussion – the full title for the exchange is:

Legal, policy, security, and regulatory priorities – supporting innovation while understanding risks, regulatory agility, IP, and strategies for effective knowledge sharing across sectors

Matt is head of Artificial Intelligence Law at Gowling (and topical with the volume The Law of Artificial Intelligence, co-authored with Matthew Lavy). My focus will be on Ethical Business Practice and Regulation (as you might have expected).

There’s lots more to look forward to on the day though – including the following confirmed speakers:

Emerging technology and the shifting landscape for regulation

With Gary Clemo, Director, Data Innovation, Ofcom

Supporting adoption – communicating the practical impact of emerging technology on solving real world challenges for organisations of all scales, and priorities for skills development and promoting career paths

With Sue Daley, Director, Tech and Innovation, techUK alongside

Priorities for research and development, and tackling barriers to cross-sector collaboration

With Dr Peter Waggett, Director, Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation, IBM

Supporting innovation, facilitating investment in emerging technologies, and engagement across the public and private sectors

Robert Franks, Managing Director, West Midlands 5G

Policy priorities and the way forward for cross-sector standardisation and promoting the UK’s role as a global leader in the development and use of emerging tech

With Dr Scott Steedman, Director-General, Standards, British Standards Institution

Chair’s and Westminster eForum closing remarks

With Michael Ryan, Deputy Editor, Westminster eForum

I hope to see you there. And stay tuned to the programme as it develops:


Photo credit: Houses of Parliament by Ugur Akdemir /via Unsplash

Culture & Conduct Deep Dive Report

The report from the 1LoD Deep Dive on Culture & Conduct is now available. Download the full report to get insights on the topic from a range of international experts. And here’s a quick preview of my comments on the risk of seeing culture as a cost:

“Leaders have a big role in creating the culture but they’re operating both from their individual mindset and their institutional mindset and they are influenced by the systemic context. For leadership to truly drive positive cultural change they need to understand and accept the business case for why culture work is important and that it produces better financial results. A lot of people don’t see it that way.”

Culture & Conduct is back on the agenda at XLoD Global 16-18 November 2021. Learn more (and book) here: 1lod.com/xlod

Here’s a speedy preview of the report – and you can flick through the whole report (and download it) here.

Thanks to 1LoD for compiling and sharing it – and hope to see you at XLoD Global!

Ethical Business Practice Capacity Building Commitment

SDG 16 : Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

At AretéWork we are primarily committed to SDGs 16 and 17 (and within that sub-targets 16.5, 16.6. 16.7 – and 17.17 which, for us, tie them all together).

We encourage, promote and contribute to effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships.

Building on the experience from our work with OECD, UNODC E4J and other global and national initiatives we commit to giving 10% of our time yearly, pro bono, to non-profit endeavours focused on capacity building around Ethical Business Practice and Ethical Business Regulation. 

And in line with our Core Values of Making a Difference + Continuous Learning and Openness – we’ve filed the above commitment with the Council for Inclusive Capitalism. This is alongside many of the global actors we are working to help adopt Ethical Business Practice.

Learn more about the Council for Inclusive Capitalism

The latest issue of AretéWork is out…

We’re mixing things up and moving the AretéWork Quarterly to a new shorter format which will instead arrive a little bit more often.

I hope you’ll want to follow along – and share with others who might benefit.

In this new issue you’ll find:

The latest from AretéWork – Including a new book I’ve contributed a chapter to – use the AUDIT20 to get 20% off from the publisher.

A Q&A Chris Campbell and David Barr – which is one of a new series of Q&As with leading thinkers in the field.

Interesting ethics links from elsewhere – Because sharing is caring … and if you have something you’d like included in a future issue, let me know.

What we’re reading – A quick summer round-up. Got recommendations to add? Be sure to send them along…All the best to you and yours. Let’s advance #EthicalBusinessPractice together.


‘there is generally in my experience far more corruption in countries with very rigid rules and very limited discretion…’

A brief AretéThoughts Q&A with Florentin Blanc:

What is the most important thing that regulators must learn from the pandemic?

Outcomes are what matters, not processes. And to achieve outcomes, you need to keep focusing on assessing, understanding, detecting risks. You need flexibility, and data. But this a lesson even more for those who make the rules “above” regulators, which often constrain the latter rather than empower them.

Are there ways to achieve a suitable degree of regulatory discretion without increasing corruption risk? Why would this be helpful?

The short answer is: yes. Why would it be helpful, first? Because optimal rules don’t exist: rules cannot predict everything. If you make them too rigid and precise and narrow, you will end up with bureaucracy, and inability to adapt and respond to events.

If you make them too loose, they will be useless. You need discretion, definitely.

How to limit corruption? First, regulators need to adopt and publish clear guidelines on how they exercise discretion, so that there can be accountability and review. Second, there needs to be transparency, and results management, accountability for results. Third, of course, properly professional regulators, with careers that attract good people, ethical internal structures and management. This is vital.

Finally, there is generally in my experience far more corruption in countries with very rigid rules and very limited discretion…

What is your current favourite book or podcast and why?

I don’t listen to podcasts, only music. Bookwise, I enjoyed a lot the “Interdependency” series by John Scalzi and the “Lady Astronaut” series by Mary Robinette Kowal, of which I read the last volumes a couple months ago – I find science fiction always both refreshes my brain through evasion, and has very interesting insights into society, technology, economics etc. Apart from this, I am an avid Twitter user – this is where I learn stuff, for instance the “airborne Covid” stuff which right now is my most exciting area of work and leads to the question of whether and how we could have a new regulatory “field”, (indoor) air safety.

Will the pandemic speed up the pace of regulatory change in some countries and what will drive the change, if you feel it will happen?

Maybe! I sure hope so. Particularly, I wish it would help regulators and most importantly politicians who make the laws that regulators work within to realize the importance of understanding and managing risks, rather than focusing on what is easy to control and measure. If change does not happen, we will continue to flail around with regulatory measures that deliver no results but have significant costs.

Florentin Blanc is a Senior Policy Analyst at OECD.

Read more AretéThoughts Q&As

Summer reading list

What am I reading at the moment? Well, quite a few different things.

I am almost finished with the Fearless Organization by Amy C. Edmondson. I was particularly struck by her description of the different responses and outcomes between Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini in the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Fukushima Daini was led by Naohiro Masuda, plant superintendent, who inspired life-saving teamwork from his 400 colleagues through honesty, vulnerability, communication and information sharing. And, Professor Edmondson explains how he did all this with a whiteboard. It is a gripping story, and worth the price of the book alone.

I have started Michele’s Wucker’s new book, You Are What You Risk: The New Art and Science of Navigating an Uncertain World, after listening to her talk to Christian Hunt on the Human Risk Podcast. If any of you are procrastinating about mitigating risks in your personal life, this is probably for you.

Another personally motivated choice is Nir Eyal’s Indistracable. Having coped with a short attention span all my life; I am finding that the pandemic has reduced it further, mainly as a result of spending so much time at home. I used to scroll mindlessly through social media while on the Underground or while travelling so it didn’t feel quite as much of a problem – when I arrived at my destination, I stopped. Now there is no destination. As he points out you can only be distracted from something – and he urges us to explore the root cause for example, asking ourselves, what am I trying to avoid. Needless to say, this type of introspection can be painful!

On the plus side, I’m reading the other contributions to Roger Miles’ new book (mine is Chapter 13 on cultural measurement). The title of the whole book is Culture Audit in Financial Services.

And I’m reading Noise by Kahneman, Sunstein and Sibony after listening to three different podcasts featuring one or all of the authors. They must be exhausted!

I finished Rutger Bregman’s delightful book Humankind, A Hopeful History, and would recommend it to anyone who listens to the news daily.

What are you reading? Let me know on LinkedIn or @ruthsteinholtz.

OUT NOW: Culture Audit in Financial Services

In the next wave of conduct regulation in financial markets, from 2021 conduct regulators in the UK and elsewhere expect firms to produce evidence on how they are improving behaviour and culture. Facing this, many practitioners are anxious that their current reporting and management information (MI) are irrelevant to meeting as-yet unclear regulatory expectations.

This book provides the insights and tools firms need to report on culture, securing both enhanced business value and the regulator’s approval. Culture is now seen as a key contributor to good governance, feeding into existing discourse on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors and the emerging dialogue on ‘non-financial (mis)conduct’, but conventional measures of business quality are unfit for the new reporting agenda. Culture Audit in Financial Services follows the arc of ‘behavioural regulation’ to examine what the regulator really wants, before offering guidance on how culture audit differs from conventional auditing, how to put the latest pure-research findings to work, and the key features of well-designed conduct and culture reports.

Written by an impartial author and a variety of contributors (including yours truly) with extensive experience working with practitioners, regulators, and many of the world’s finest academic initiatives, this book is filled with practical, grounded advice on how best to approach this new challenge and avoid infractions.

Get your copy today.