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Inculcating Cultural Practices In Compliance, Ethics And Anti-Corruption Programmes

Last week one of UK’s leading ethics and compliance organisations, the Institute of Business Ethics, IBE, published a new Good Practice Guide: Globalising a Business Ethics Programme, with which it intends to help organisations achieve a consistent standard of business practice by recognising the cultural attitudes and practical issues they will face when deploying their ethical values to stakeholders in different parts of the world.
According to the IBE cultural differences can be a challenge to consistent ethical standards and render corporate ethics programmes ineffective, if they are perceived locally as irrelevant or inappropriate. 
The guide listed some of these cultural differences as follows:
• Different approaches to conflicts of interest: In Africa, where family bonds are highly valued nepotism is common and often seen as in the best interest of the business.
• Different gift giving practices: In parts of Asia, token cash gifts are routine in business relationships at special occasions like the birth of a child or New Year.  Not being able to give a “red envelope” could result in the loss of face. In some African countries, businesses might ask suppliers to sponsor a son or daughter’s wedding.  Not doing so could be considered insulting.
• Perceptions of reporting channels: Negative historical events (such as the Cultural Revolution in China or the Stasi in East Germany) which have fostered cultural fears of retaliation may mean that reporting or speak up lines are better referred to as opportunities to raise concerns or make enquires. 
• Types of ethics training: In many parts of Africa where storytelling and group discussion is part of the culture, games, case studies and role play are effective, but lecture-style training is not.  In contrast, in Asia, where the education system relies on lecture, employees will not be so comfortable discussing ethics matters in an open manner. Training audiences in Europe may not be as open to games which they may see as trivialising the topic.  
• Translation of idioms: One code of ethics suggested that employees should “take a step back”, meaning to reflect, but the code was translated literally as “we need to move backwards!” Translators of fiction rather than technical experts may have a better grasp of idiom and so be more appropriate as translators of ethics materials. 
This is a welcome development as we have argued for ages with multinational institutions against the wholesome adoption of codes of ethics or business conducts from headquarters in North America or Europe for implementation in Nigeria.
We have persistently urged that gifts and entertainment policies be tempered to allow for corporate gifts and entertainment in such Nigerian occasions as sallah, weddings, naming ceremonies, burials, chieftaincy etc.
We most heartily welcome the softening of the stance of international best practices to allow for local adaptation of those our cultural activities that enhance a good work life- balance.
It is good for business and good for the family.

 

Sir Chukwu Jideani
08051789348 (SMS Only)

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