What are some examples of unethical behavior

By Andreas Knaut. The expert for corporate communications and CSR was responsible for corporate communications and sustainability at Danone until summer 2012. He currently teaches at the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences in Munich and the Leipzig School of Media.

There is a lot going on in Compliance Germany: ThyssenKrupp is separating from a member of the Executive Board because the latter is said to have induced journalists to fly with them without paying them. The Federal Association of Pharmacists' Associations allegedly used documents that a mole illegally obtained from the Federal Ministry of Health. The public prosecutor is investigating German bankers for money laundering, including: Co-CEO Jürgen Fitschen.

Germany - a banana republic? Located somewhere between North Korea and Somalia?

How can that be? In 2010, PriceWaterhouseCoopers calculated 44 percent of all companies have at least one kind of code of conduct. A host of 2978 virtue guards are now cavorting in German corporations, estimates the Manager Magazin. Large companies like MAN maintain multi-tiered and deeply tiered departments that keep an eye on everything from business conduct, antitrust law and bribery to data protection and even money laundering. Emeritus judges and public prosecutors enjoy generous extra income as compliance officers, law firms based in Frankfurt and New York enjoy lucrative consulting mandates.

Are companies now acting more ethically than they used to be? But much more has changed: Sales managers no longer sit in 5-star restaurants, but in glass offices across from them, with just a table with water between them. CEOs avoid - sometimes - association meetings, these could be used for price fixing. Bundesliga clubs are worried about the marketing of their arena analogues, because there are only winners of intra-group motivational measures.

The answer is not easy. In the above-mentioned cases by Deutsche Bank and Co., only the public prosecutor initially investigates; there is no judgment. There is an initial suspicion, no less, but no more either. And it is not uncommon for such suspicious facts to dissolve into hot air. Except that nobody reports about it anymore.

On the other hand: Introducing a code of conduct, an ethical rule of conduct, is one thing. It is much more difficult to live it. It's not just about bonus and sanctioning regulations from above, but also about daily self-discipline and acceptance by all those involved. Especially from the colleagues who act in good faith and have always acted and actually only follow industry practices. You need to understand that the rules of the game are changing.

Anyone who used to be able to invite their business partner to an opulent dinner has to justify it today. Anyone who used to be in the box at Bayern Munich's Bundesliga match against HSV has to ask for the bill today. Anyone who gives a plush bear to a retail buyer today will notice that he or she reports the present to his superior - or rejects it right away.

Legal German in the ethics catalog All of this is uncomfortable, annoying, and at times personally embarrassing. All of this means additional effort in everyday work that is not relaxed anyway. And does it directly advance the business? Of course not. No buyer buys compliance. But he also buys less if this is not the case.

Promoting correct behavior among employees requires perseverance, extensive training and a role model from superiors. Anyone who flashes at the top left but turns right shouldn't be surprised if there is also course irritation in the team. In addition, cleverness is required in the selection of the guardians of virtue. If the ethics officer has no idea about the business or is simply too far away from the department, misunderstandings are inevitable

In order to promote ethically correct behavior, clear statements are also necessary. Some compliance compendia are difficult to digest even for lawyers; for employees they are simply a book with seven seals. The result: uncertainty, sometimes even fear. Because it is also clear: today there is more severe punishment than in the past.

However - if you know the situation today and compare it with those 15 years ago, you will find that the way we deal with it has already changed. The question must be: what would be our situation today if the new ethical trend didn't exist?

Of course, none of this protects against those who intentionally want to cheat. These employees and bosses will probably - unfortunately - continue to exist in the future. Nor does it protect against the public: Compliance is ONE topic in our society today - and it will probably remain so.

Anyone who has not yet scrutinized their business processes should do so soon. Because ThyssenKrupp, Deutsche Bank, the pharmacists are today - tomorrow it will be different. Nobody is immune to attack - rightly or wrongly. Loss of reputation threatens. Here it is good to have a team that not only lives compliance, but also internalizes it.

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