• United States

ISO compliance for business conduct?

Apr 26, 20042 mins

A group of corporate ethics officers is pushing a standard for use in creating business-conduct programs.

As Network World 200 vendors – and companies in other industry segments – create business-conduct best practices, many are stymied by the inability to measure the effectiveness of those programs.

Enter the Ethics Officer Association (EOA) and its efforts to create an international standard for a business- conduct management system (BCMS). The EOA, a professional group for managers of ethics, compliance and business-conduct programs, has three goals for such a standard, says Lee Essrig, the group’s director of global initiatives.

  • Provide a practical means for companies of any size, in any industry and in any part of the world to integrate business ethics into their operations.

  • Recommend best practices for business conduct.

  • Enable companies to measure the effectiveness of their programs.

The 12-year-old EOA, which has seen its membership grow 25% in the last three years, says it hopes to get the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to develop its BCMS as a “guideline standard.” Such a standard would provide recommendations rather than specify best practices. The ANSI International Committee has proposed that ISO develop a BCMS guidelines-based standard. If the ISO agrees and begins work this year, such a standard could be available by 2007, Essrig says.

A good BCMS guideline standard would have elements common to the ISO 9000 quality and ISO 14000 environmental management system standards and incorporate emerging best practices, Essrig says. For example, a good BCMS would have demonstrated commitment from executive management; designation of a high-level person responsible for business conduct; codes of conduct; training; confidential mechanisms for reporting misconduct; and regular reporting for review to the board of directors.

“If we could develop the BCMS through ISO, it would be a standard that people would recognize immediately. ISO is well known, well respected, with an excellent reputation for developing standards through consensus,” Essrig says. “If a company can say its BCMS meets an ISO standard – well, that means something in the business world.”