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Are corporate codes of conduct and codes of ethics a luxury or a necessity in today’s tough—and perhaps shrinking—global economy? Compliance may be costly and burdensome, but we feel strongly that it is crucial to success. Employees at all levels face myriad ethical and behavioral challenges every day. Gray areas can often create an apparent conflict between building and growing the business and following the strictures of a code of conduct or code of ethics. In addition, employees sometimes grapple with real or perceived concerns that reporting possible code violations may have adverse business and career implications. Yet for companies and employees alike, the investment in, presence of, and adherence to codes of conduct and codes of ethics provide important guidance and value. They enable employees to gain a much clearer understanding of permissible and measureable actions and behaviors, while allowing companies to demonstrate to regulators and other critical stakeholders that they are acting transparently and ethically—which in turn helps them to build a brand as an attractive employer and business partner. As companies seek to enhance and clarify their compliance programs while reevaluating how best to allocate precious dollars, they may be tempted to wonder whether they need both a code of ethics and a code of conduct. We contend that they do—and that a combined code of business ethics and conduct is preferable.
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