Ethics and Compliance: We Demonstrate Integrity in Our Actions

In honor of Corporate Compliance and Ethics Week, which is November 7 – 13, Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer Alan Einisman took time to talk about compliance and ethics, why they are important for Bristow, how employees can help the company stay compliant, and how they are tied to Bristow’s Core Value of Integrity.

Why are ethics and compliance important for Bristow?

Most people, regardless of where they work, want to be associated with an ethical employer. Who wants to work for an organization that has a bad reputation? Companies that are reputed to be ethical – doing things the right way, operating with integrity, not cutting corners – outperform their competitors. In other words, ethics is good for business.

Just as a potential customer wants to partner with a company that they can trust, Bristow, too, wants to affiliate with ethical companies. Our business partners are important to our success, and being ethical is a two-way street. We want to enter into relationships with companies that are ethical, so each party can trust that the other is doing the right thing. Everyone wins. If we refrain from engaging in behavior that can negatively impact our business partners – legally, reputationally or financially – and we trust them to do the same, we can move forward confidently and continue delivering on our commitments.

How are compliance and ethics tied to our Core Value of Integrity?

Integrity – it’s a powerful word and a powerful concept. It’s used quite a bit in corporate compliance speak, though I’m not sure people understand what it means. Integrity, in my opinion, is an umbrella term for a collection of traits. It’s adherence to ethical principles, honesty, fairness, dedication and commitment, selflessness. It’s doing the right thing all the time, every time. More important than the definition, however, are the actions of a person of integrity. We can typically trust our gut to tell us if we’re doing the right thing or the wrong thing. As humans, we have natural positive feelings that indicate when we are doing a good thing or the right thing. And we also have a feeling of discomfort when we’re doing something wrong and when we see someone else doing wrong.

How are ethics and compliance tied to our Core Value of Integrity?

Well, integrity can be used to describe the morals of an individual, and it can be used to describe the morals of an organization. In order for an organization to act with integrity, its employees need to act with integrity. If we as Bristow employees collectively act with integrity, we will see the benefits described above – we will outperform our competitors. And our customers and shareholders will benefit, too.

Why are ethics and compliance important for employees?

Ask former employees of Enron – or any other business that was brought down by unethical actions – why ethics and compliance are important for employees. I’ll give you an example. We are in a safety-focused industry. Accordingly, our employees need to take the time to do things the right way. From the safety perspective, we know not to cut corners. Why? Because bad things can happen when we cut corners. Likewise, bad things can happen when people act unethically, and reputations matter. Again, ask a former Enron employee.

The overwhelming majority of people at Enron were showing up and doing the right thing every day. A very small number of people brought the entire company down. And even though they had nothing to do with the wrongdoing, everyone suffered because of the actions of that small number of people. People lost their jobs, many had to access their savings, their retirement funds. Many reputations were tarnished unfairly, and many struggled to find work. Whether you’re doing the right thing or the wrong thing, you are not only impacting your future, but also the futures of your colleagues.

It’s also important to note that when you engage in questionable behavior, you will eventually lose that sense of hesitancy that you get when you know something is wrong. You feel it in your gut. Studies show that once a person cuts an ethical corner, it becomes easier for that person to do it again. Eventually, you have numbed yourself to it. Things can spiral so quickly for someone without them even noticing. Here’s my advice to anyone who is confronted with an ethical dilemma: are you doing right by yourself, your family and your coworkers? Do you want to see your name on the front page of the local paper because of an unethical act? Do you want to explain your behavior to your parents or your children? People you haven’t even met are relying on you to do the right thing, so choose wisely!

How can employees contribute to ethics and compliance?

The most important thing you can do if you see something that doesn’t look right is talk to someone about it. You can talk to your supervisor or a Human Resources representative. Or you can call me – that’s what I’m here for. I cannot respond to a concern if I am not aware of it. All Bristow employees should feel safe and empowered to report concerns when they arise.

Any employee who raises a good-faith concern regarding suspected misconduct is doing the right thing, and Bristow will not tolerate any form of retaliation against that person. All Bristow employees have a duty to report any suspected violation of law, policy or standards of conduct. If you have a concern or suspicion regarding unlawful or unethical activity, please share it. You do not have to be certain that a violation has occurred; a good-faith belief that a violation could have occurred is sufficient.

When you act ethically, it benefits you, the company, colleagues and customers. You as an individual play a role in that. We, collectively, own ethics and compliance. We rise and fall together – that’s just the way it is.

There are any number of examples of this in the sports world. Once an athlete cheats or engages in improper behavior, their reputation is tarnished forever, and it has negative consequences for their teams, too.

But cheating and other improper behavior in sports is universal: Football/Futebol (Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo), cycling (Lance Armstrong), Olympics (Boris Onishchenko). There’s a long list.

What are some examples of individuals or companies that have had very public ethics or compliances lapses, and what were the consequences?

Walmart got itself in a lot of trouble for bribing government officials in Mexico in 2012. In short, Walmart concocted a scheme in Mexico, with the knowledge of the CEO and the General Counsel, to build stores as quickly as possible. To accomplish this goal, they needed help from Mexican officials. The day the New York Times published the front-page exposé, Walmart’s stock fell by about 5%. The company paid $282 million to settle the matter, which, by that point, had also included findings of bribery in Brazil, China and India. Walmart also had to revamp its legal and compliance team and hire an independent compliance monitor. In the end, Walmart spent a total of nearly $1 billion in legal fees and other costs related to investigation.

What is the difference between ethics and compliance?

Generally speaking, I think of compliance as the rules: laws, regulations, rules established by the government or a regulator. Ethics is aspirational – how we should be acting. Some argue that laws are simply reflections of societal ethics. Maybe that’s true to a certain degree. Ethics is doing what’s right – not only because the law says we should act a certain way, but because we all benefit when we do what’s right! Or to paraphrase someone from my hometown, we all do better when we all do better.