Leading Corporate Integrity: Defining the Role of the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer

Fellows of the Ethics Resource Center, Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics, the Ethics and Compliance Officer Association, the Open Compliance and Ethics Group (OCEG), and the Society of Corporate Compliance & Ethics put together Leading Corporate Integrity: Defining the Role of the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer (pdf).

Senior corporate executives are under great pressure to build and maintain strong  organizational ethics programs. The stakes are high for any organization that fails to make ethics a priority and then finds itself embroiled in scandal. Public perceptions—often driven by the media—spoil a company’s reputation and weaken its brand value. Lowered trust among investors can devastate a company’s ability to attract support for growth. Regulators and lawmakers may move swiftly to punish and/or further regulate those who step outside accepted ethical boundaries.

Today, many organizations are choosing to consolidate the critical responsibility for ethics and compliance programs under a chief ethics and compliance officer (CECO). But the specific roles and reporting lines for this relative newcomer among corporatemanagement positions are not always clearly defined;many CECOs report feeling set up for failure due to insufficient authority or inadequate resources.

This paper is intended to serve as the starting point for a dialogue within corporate management circles—particularly among CEOs, boards of directors and the CECOs themselves—about the proper placement, qualifications, and responsibilities for a leader of the corporate ethics and compliance function. This paper also provides resources and identifies additional steps for further examination of this critical management function.