Strict compliance with legal and ethical standards is a requirement for all companies today. To that end, each company must develop a culture of prevention through a regulatory compliance program, known as “compliance”. Compliance applies to all actions, relationships and procedures of the company and, therefore, all actions of managers and employees must be subject to this culture.
Keep in mind that not complying with legal obligations, not only could bring economic sanctions to those who act in this way, but could even cause criminal charges not only for the people who committed such acts but also for the companies themselves that are active subjects of the crime as stated in the Comprehensive Organic Penal Code that came into force in 2015.
The adoption of a compliance program is not simple, since it implies changing the culture of a company, not only by its partners, shareholders, managers and workers, but also by customers and suppliers.
Here are some of the key steps to adopt an effective compliance program:
- Start at the head of the institution: any change in the culture of a company starts at the top; therefore, the first step is for managers to have precise knowledge of what compliance entails, such as corporate culture and the willingness to adopt it. Therefore, it is up to them to transmit the adoption of the program to all levels, which implies the necessary commitment of everyone to strictly comply with it.
- Prevention and analysis: it is necessary to carry out a diagnosis regarding the approach that the program will have, this approach must be adapted to the individual characteristics of each company. For example, an organization that performs public procurement must implement a different compliance plan, compared to a company that mostly sells to the private sector. Once the areas of greatest risk have been identified, the necessary resources will be assigned to make the changes.
- Education: education is essential to achieve culture change. It is essential that all or at least the absolute majority of workers understand the scope of compliance. This ensures that any non-compliance that could harm the company is reported on time. Education programs must be continuous (at least every 6 months), personalized for each role, and must provide information on the legal framework for compliance.
- Communication: Internal regulations of companies contained in a code of conduct must be clear, affordable, and permanently communicated to their workers. It should include topics such as: corruption, blackmail, bribery, conflicts of interest, tax evasion, money laundering, among others. In addition, it must establish who is responsible for the compliance program and the mechanism through which employees can report or consult a case where a breach could happen.
- Relevance: the importance of the program must be determined, and the personnel and resources required for its implementation must be assigned to it. Otherwise it could become “dead letter” without any significance for the company that adopts it.
The additional costs that implementing a compliance program may eventually demand are fully justified if, with its deployment, the company achieves an unblemished reputation for strict compliance with the law and ethics in its business relationships with shareholders, customers and suppliers. This behavior will translate into better positioning in the market and the consequent increase in sales.