A client of mine who is a compliance/ethics officer in the Pharmaceutical industry sent me his comments on the distinction between compliance and ethics. Thoughts?
Simply stated , Ethics is the internal intangible that drives us. It’s the value system, or lack thereof , that guides us when we make decisions in our day to day actions. Compliance is much more clear cut. Compliance is about following the rules, the policies , the regulations that are articulated in laws and internally drafted documents. There are consequences for violating those policies and regulations that can result in discipline up to and including termination. Often, there’s no analysis related to intent. If you violate the rules, there will be consequences. Ethics is more about your personal values. I heard an expert say , either you have ethics or you don’t . Maybe the rules and regs are for those that don’t have guiding principles they live by. Employees that will do anything to get where they need to go , need a structure in place to stop them from crossing the line.
Companies that incorporate a culture of ethical behavior, get employees to follow the rules, not just because they have to, but because it’s the right thing to do.