Finding the core of an ethics program

Taxwise Or Otherwise
Maria Grace A. Aries

Posted on May 15, 2014

LAST Sunday, we celebrated Mother’s Day to honor that special person who is instrumental to our existence. Mothers have an extraordinary role to play in the scheme of creation. Not only do they serve as compasses directing our moral values, but more significantly, they are the cradle to the seed of life.

Yes -- our life is a gift! It is, in fact, a bag of gifts. Though we may still be in want, it cannot be denied that we have received much in life. With the gift of life comes the gift of family, friends, time, nature, work and many more. I am very lucky to have known many people who have learned to give themselves as a gift to others, people who share the gift of friendship and time, the story of their lives. Such people understand that a person, by nature, is relational. He is capable and in need of initiating and building relationships.

The workplace demands, at the minimum, relationships that are professional. However, since people are innately relational, remaining at the professional level of relationships may not be sufficient. We can consider going beyond and reaching the personal level. This is a relationship based on the values of love and service that are at the core of building an ethical culture in the workplace.

Ethical practices are observed in many forms and manners. It may be through punctuality in set appointments or honoring commitments, whether on a personal or professional level. It is being considerate to inform the other party in advance when canceling or rescheduling a meeting. It is listening attentively, starting and ending a workshop on time, saying “please” and “thank you” and “sorry”, or patiently mentoring a colleague.

It is about focusing on the task at hand and avoiding unnecessary interruptions. In the simple day-to-day encounters, it is saying yes when we mean yes, and no when we mean no. It is paying bills on time, timely submitting expense reimbursements, and promptly filing income tax returns and paying the right taxes.

It is when a member tactfully suggests a course of action in an advocacy group; prudently using resources, even if it’s “just paper”; or segregating recyclable and biodegradable materials in separate bins for proper disposal.

Uprightness is about giving others a chance to speak in a forum, finding a common ground during discussions, and gently but firmly helping another to see the better alternative. It is about empathizing with a colleague, or having sound foresight and not being contented with short-term gains.

Ethical behavior is values-based work performance and a real love-inspired excellence. If our relationships are not based on genuine love and concern for others, our actions in the workplace and even in our dealings with those outside our professional and business circles might cross the ethical line.

In a July 11, 2013 article posted on CSRwire, a digital media platform on corporate social responsibility and sustainability, author Elaine Cohen wrote: “The fact that a company has published a Code of Ethics that forbids, finds unacceptable, prohibits or expressly rejects certain types of behaviors is apparently not enough to prevent unethical behavior in the workplace. You only need to take a fleeting look at the 2011 National Business Ethics Survey, to see that about 45% of US workers (that’s over 60 million employees) observed ethical misconduct in the workplace, and 65% of them reported it. Of those who reported misconduct, 22% experienced retaliation for doing so. Misconduct includes behaviors such as ‘lying to employees,’ ‘stealing,’ ‘sexual harassment,’ ‘discrimination,’ ‘conflicts of interest,’ ‘insider trading,’ ‘falsifying expense reports,’ ‘software piracy’ and more -- all the negative examples of behavior that Codes of Ethics so eloquently outlaw.”

Even at the local front, there seems to be a growing awareness of the demand and relevance for instilling ethical behavior in the workplace. The proposition that ethics plays a crucial role in the growth and sustainability of a business enterprise has become a byword in boardroom agenda and organizational goals.

The crucial questions we need to ask ourselves are: How have I responded so far to this demand? Do I behave ethically? How do I get a colleague to behave ethically as well? How do I contribute to building an ethical culture?

Let us have a closer look at the approach we take for our company’s ethics program -- to challenge the sufficiency of a “rules-based” approach in which ethics is generally regarded as a set policies of do’s and don’ts. In contrast to its “rules-based” counterpart, a “values-based” approach aims at the development of the person as an integrated professional -- someone who continuously discovers and learns his great capacity to love and serve. How about considering a values-based approach in next year’s ethics program?

The author is a director for ethics and compliance at Isla Lipana & Co., the Philippine member firm of the PwC network. Readers may call (02) 845-2728 or e-mail the author at for questions or feedback.

The views or opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Isla Lipana & Co. The firm will not accept any liability arising from the article.