The recognition that organizations are an integral part of society and, therefore, have a definite contribution to make in strengthening social well-being has led to an increasing focus on the question of business ethics and corporate social responsibility. Modern day businesses are also acknowledging that good corporate governance is in the best interests of the organization and its stakeholders. It is the objective of this paper to describe the benefits of an ethics program for a hypothetical drivers training company, providing it is designed and implemented well. Therefore, the scope of this paper includes a proposed code of ethics, social and moral philosophy, training and implementation guidelines, and an audit program.
An Ethics Program for a Drivers Training Company
Historically, most businesses have operated on the principle that their primary or only responsibility is to maximize shareholder value. Today, however, the recognition that organizations are an integral part of society and, therefore, have a definite contribution to make in strengthening social well-being has led to an increasing focus on the question of business ethics and corporate social responsibility. In addition, businesses are also acknowledging that companies, which emphasize good corporate governance, will, over time, generate superior returns. Using this premise as a basis, it is the objective of this paper to describe the benefits of an ethics program for a hypothetical drivers training company, named Ace Driving Institute, providing it is designed and implemented well. Therefore, the scope of this paper includes a proposed code of ethics, social and moral philosophy, training and implementation guidelines, and an audit program.
Ace Driving Institute: An Introduction
For the purposes of this paper, it is hypothesized that Ace Driving Institute is a drivers training company, which provides commercial driver training for corporate as well as individual customers, through its offices and training locations all over the United States. Ace Driving Institute is a fairly old, well-established name in the business but has only recently begun considering the need for a formal ethics program. The stated objective of this paper, which is to demonstrate how Ace Driving Institute will benefit from an ethics program, has been formulated in the light of this context.
The success of any ethics program depends on how seriously it is taken by the top management of a company. Indeed, for ethical standards to be carried out, company leaders must first establish their corporate philosophy, which includes a description of moral and social values. Accordingly, the first step that Ace Driving Institute must take in instituting an ethics program is to develop a well thought-out mission statement that sets not just business direction but also lays the foundation for an ethical culture.
Since ethical conduct is manifested in the way a company deals with its customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, and the communities it operates in (Blank, 2003), it is recommended that all these aspects get incorporated in Ace Driving Institute's mission statement. Such an approach will not only ensure the right amount of emphasis on the importance of developing effective relationships with all stakeholder segments, it will also lay the ground for developing a code of ethical conduct. Thus, it is proposed that Ace Driving Institute adopt the following mission statement: "The management and employees of Ace Driving Institute will endeavor, at all times, to be the best performing, professional drivers training company. Ace Driving Institute will strive to achieve this through understanding and meeting the needs and expectations of its customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, and the communities in which we operate."
It is important to note here that formulating and establishing the seriousness of the intent behind the mission statement will, by itself, lead to positive results for Ace Driving Institute. Indeed, this is evident in the very wording of the mission.
Code of Ethics
Although a code of ethics is implicit in the proposed mission statement, it is nevertheless important for Ace Driving Institute to separately specify a set of values that will serve to guide company behavior in all aspects of its business. A well-defined code of ethics will also heighten awareness of company values and help increase commitment to corporate ethics (Blank, 2003). Accordingly, it is suggested that Ace Driving Institute adopt a code of ethics, which defines and explains the relevance of values that are implicit in the mission statement. These values are: integrity; total customer satisfaction; excellence in performance; customer and employee safety; environmental concern; increasing shareholder value; teamwork; personal accountability; and community welfare.
Once the mission statement and code of ethics are finalized, a review of company policy and operating manuals would need to be undertaken in order to ensure that there is no conflict of interest or contradiction between the proposed ethics program and existing company norms.
Moral and Social Philosophy
The proposed mission statement and code of ethics has been derived from the existing moral and social philosophy of the company, which was articulated by the top management as: "We believe that any business is only a part of a social system made up of many interconnected parts. Therefore, our first principle is that we must live up to the expectations and needs of all the social segments that connect with us, even if in doing so we may sometimes have to forgo our own business interests. For Ace Driving Institute, this means meeting the expectations of integrity, excellence, and fair business practices. It also means building relationships based on trust and care by working towards employee and community welfare. Business goals are important but we believe that those goals will be easily met if we can succeed in fulfilling the needs of the society we live in."
Training and Implementation
The corporate world often fails to live up to its professed ethical standards due to an assumption that employees will adhere to a code of ethics, once it is published. Whereas those companies that institute corporate codes, which follow the principles of participation, validity, and authenticity (Newton, 1992, p. 259), succeed in building a strong compliance culture. This means that Ace Driving Institute must begin its training and implementation program by, in fact, ensuring that its mission, code of ethics, and philosophy are understood and accepted across all levels in the organization: "In its development and promulgation, the code must enjoy the maximum participation .... In its content, the code must be coherent with ... The dictates of conscience (the principle of validity). In its implementation, the code must be, and must be seen to be, coherent with the lived commitments of the company's officers (the principle of authenticity)." (Newton, 1992, p. 259)
Thus, it is recommended that Ace Driving Institute begin its implementation of its ethics program by holding a series of interactive sessions with employees from all levels of the organization. It is envisaged that these sessions will also help Ace in its review of policies and operating manuals by identifying aspects that may prove to be stumbling blocks in the compliance of ethical standards. But perhaps the biggest value of these sessions will stem from the demonstration of management commitment to the ethics program.
Once the ethical code has been finalized, it is important to set in motion training programs that are especially designed to help managers and staff members to put ethical attitudes and thinking into practice. For instance, a typical course would include a definition of business ethics; a discussion on the importance of adherence to ethical standards; a classification of business ethics problems; exploring areas of ethical conflicts; and management of ethical dilemmas and issues. Once the training sessions are complete, it can be assumed that the actual implementation of the code has begun. However, it is important that Ace continually reinforce the importance of ethics through regular communication programs, audits, and reviews.