Maintaining Integrity in the Corporate World
by Mani Padmanabhan, CFO and Co Founder at Price Eagle Online
We are living in a globalized, hyper-connected world with faster and easier information access. Laws are increasingly becoming stronger and trans-jurisdictional every day. The enforcement actions are becoming stronger, too. Laws and regulations, though still lagging, are catching up with moral standards out of requirements from corporations. Fortunately, subjects such as sexual harassment, bribery and corruption are already covered under laws in most countries.
There are four factors that have made it mandatory for all corporates to demonstrate high standards of governance and ethics:
1) Easier access to information
2) Heightened regulatory pressure
3) Omnipresent social media
4) A conscious and demanding public
Unethical practices are not only regulatory risks; they pose existential risks, too. Integrity is the cornerstone of ethics: the foundation on which ethical standards are built. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the word “integrity” has become a buzzword.
Let’s look at the meaning of integrity closely. Having integrity means always doing “the right thing” even “when no one is looking”. A person with integrity will always pass the Mirror Test or the Media Test; meaning that they can look in the mirror and admit to the actions they have taken, or they can look at media coverage of their actions without a tinge of guilt or remorse. In fact, they would feel good about what they have done.
Often, “honesty” is interchangeably used for “integrity”. Honesty is about truthfulness, sincerity, or frankness; freedom from deceit or fraud, while integrity is adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character. Therefore, honesty is more black-and-white and binary, while integrity is about completeness.
Integrity should manifest itself in every action or interaction. It extends beyond legal requirements into moral standards and values. In the present globalized environment, absence of integrity is often taken as absence of values.
Data integrity is a key subject that regulators observe very critically, particularly in the healthcare sector. Data integrity translates to integrity over the information provided by the company.
Data or information should be complete, consistent, accurate, and legible, and the data recording should be contemporaneous. For example, the data recordings on a batch record sheet of a production batch should occur at the same time as the tasks performed and calibrations taken. This is also true for all kinds of laboratory experiments and tests. All original data and records should be preserved, regardless of the outcome of the tests or experiments. Collectively, such data or information are called process data.
With computerization ushering in real-time recording and approval of process data, the contemporaneous and legibility aspects are handled. But controls like version control, access credentials, logs, audit trails etc. need to be entered to ensure security of data.
If there are inadequate controls over data, there are strong chances that information provided could be backdated, amended or manipulated, which can lead to serious consequences. The public image and reputation of the company can also be severely dented.
It is not necessary to prove intention in a case of any integrity violation. Even negligence and oversight are unpardonable. The issue is about addressing the vulnerabilities in the process and not just bad intent. That is why professional integrity is so important, as it is all about upholding the ethics and most cherished values of an organization.
Please note: This article contains the sole views and opinions of Mani Padmanabhan and does not reflect the views or opinions of Guidepoint Global, LLC (“Guidepoint”). Guidepoint is not a registered investment adviser and cannot transact business as an investment adviser or give investment advice. The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute investment advice, nor is it intended as an offer or solicitation of an offer or a recommendation to buy, hold or sell any security. Any use of this article without the express written consent of Guidepoint and Mani Padmanabhan is prohibited.