A chief ethics officer, not to be confused with a chief executive office or CEO, is someone who ensure that moral business decisions and practices are a priority for the company. The chief ethics officer is part of an executive management team. This type of role is designed to put forth the image that the company is concerned with ethical decisions. In addition, having a chief ethics officer working alongside the rest of the company’s upper-level management team ensures that executives are not exempt from ethical business practices. While the role and responsibilities of the chief ethics officer may vary according to the company’s specific needs, the following are some of the duties that the chief ethics officer may be responsible for.
Ensuring Company Accountability
The role of a board of directors is to ensure that companies are held accountable. However, a board must take proactive measures in monitoring the activities of management executives in order to do so. As boards are less likely to be involved in the day-to-day tasks of the company, this is difficult to achieve. Therefore, some companies choose to delegate this responsibility to a chief ethics officer. The chief ethics officer may act as a go-between for the board and management executives to ensure that all parties are accountable.
Raising Concerns without Fear of Reprisal
It is the chief ethics officer’s job to raise potential areas of concern related to conflicts of interest, conduct of high-level executives, and company decisions. While many companies choose to leave this up to employees, many fear that coming forward with concerns will only result in reprisal. As a result, appointing a chief ethics officer is a more proactive way to ensure that concerns are addressed. In addition, employees may feel more comfortable coming to a chief ethics officer if they have concerns about company misconduct. The chief ethics officer should always have the best interests of the company in mind.
Observing Company Operations
The chief ethics officer should not only be pointing out areas of concern, but also helping to build an ethics-oriented company culture. This individual must be involved in the day-to-day operations of the company in order to help put forward and maintain ethics standards. Eventually, having this designated role should help to fuse both company goals and objectives and business practices. If this individual is too distanced from the everyday functioning of the company, he or she will seem more like police officer. Executives may be more interested in not getting caught in unethical conduct as opposed to making ethical business decisions.
The chief ethics officer must have sufficient authority to make decisions and give advice that is taken seriously by upper-level management. Making the chief ethics officer an integrated member of the company helps to add credibility to his or her role. He or she should be regarded at the same level as the CEO in upholding the standards of the company. Otherwise, companies risk sending the message that ethical standards are not important.
The chief ethics officer is someone who ensures that all company decisions and activities are ethical. This position should be as important as other executive positions within the company.