As if there weren’t already a sea of reasons for companies to put an effective code in place, we’re increasingly seeing one more: to more fully meet the Adequate Procedure defense described in the guidance issued on the UK Bribery Act earlier this year. Companies are recognizing that spelling out their bribery policy in the company code can help mitigate risk on two fronts by not only giving employees the information they need to recognize and steer clear of situations that might suggest a bribe, but also sending the message (inside and outside of the company) that the company takes a zero-tolerance position on bribery.
Of course, policy-speak dropped into a company’s code is the easiest way to cover your bases, but represents the least effective way to foster an anti-bribery culture over time. With the guidance calling for “…clear, practical, accessible, effectively implemented and enforced” procedures, the best codes translate legal policy into easy-to-read guidance and couple it with company-relevant Q&A to make it meaningful for every employee at every level of the company.
Forward-thinking companies tend to transform “adequate” into “awesome” by including in their codes links to more detailed bribery policy, other related policies (like the company’s policy on gifts and entertainment) and resources for employees to tap into for help. They’re also using their codes as a place for two other best-practice Adequate Procedures to land: the inclusion of language around the company’s top-level commitment to ethical conduct (described in Principle 2 of the UK guidance) and the company’s policy on speaking up about bribery and other illegal acts (described in Principle 5).
For companies looking for the perfect time to upgrade their code, the roll-out of this year’s Adequate Procedures, offers a perfect catalyst. A quick search on “bribery prosecutions” drives home the fact that there’s never been a better time – or a more compelling reason – to set the wheels in motion.