Building 360° Integrity from the Boardroom

Integrity is important – we all know it, and we all agree on it. Why then, does ensuring that integrity is part of our culture seem so unattractive? Board directors are economic actors – we do what makes sense, and what pays a reward for the company. Most of us are even willing to accept that reward comes in non-financial terms, as well as financial. Why then is it a topic for special attention?

Read the headlines: Integrity matters
It seems that most people assume integrity to be an inherent state of mind; one that comes naturally to us and does not need further development. Facts however, as we constantly see, tell a different truth. Board members, executives and managers of some of the most prestigious companies in the world keep appearing on the front pages, their reputation in tatters; their credibility gone; denuded of integrity. True, we say, but that wouldn’t happen to us, we are ethical. Newsflash: That’s what they thought.

Reputation: A matter of time and effort
Raising our profile of integrity in business is clearly vital for personal success, our ability to generate trust in others, and our reputation as board members – the belief that we are honest and sincere. For our companies, it is equally vital. Boardroom failures in dealing with integrity have led to companies like Arthur Andersen disappearing entirely, and brands like VW and FIFA being damaged; while the news wires frequently report on financial sanctions being imposed for some or other form of anti-social act. For Luxembourg as a financial and corporate centre, ensuring Luxembourg’s board directors display high standards of integrity is a critical factor for its reputation.

Building and maintaining a reputation takes time and effort, consistency and transparency. It requires an investment in the intangible; in integrity. This is why ILA commissioned the Integrity Committee to design a course to ensure integrity and ethical behaviour is recognized as a strategic matter, and a priority for boards to deal with in a practical manner.

Integrity in the boardroom – looking for answers
If we consider ourselves as predisposed to acting with integrity, why then, do we often presume others to be acting without integrity? Is it possible that our perception of what constitutes integrity and ethical behaviour differs depending on background, culture and upbringing? If so, then how can we assume that all members of the organization will act with a common “integrity”, unless we invest in defining, communicating and promoting expected ethical behaviours?

These challenges were the subject of intense debate within the Integrity Committee of the Institut des Administrators de Luxembourg (ILA); its outcome is the course “Integrity in the Boardroom” which was launched on 25 October 2017. It has since been integrated into ILA’s certification programme for Company Directors. ILA strongly encourages all Directors to explore this vital subject, exchanging knowledge and experiences with trainers and peers alike.

Course objectives
The course is structured to emphasise three main aspects of organizational integrity, all in an environment designed to encourage exchange of knowledge and experience, as well as inspire assertive action. The course itself is designed around:

  • A case study to explore what integrity means to the individual;
  • practical measures for Boards to evaluate and promote integrity in the firm;
  • a dive into the 360° role of integrity in our work as board directors – from choosing the right mandate, to exercising ethical influence on the board, and being a role model for the members of the organization.

The course is run by members of the Integrity Committee in collaboration with the Institute of Business Ethics, London.

Check out this and other courses being offered by ILA at https://ila.lu/trainings

Can one really deny that such an experience will not provide a return on investment worth pursuing?

​Anthony Smith-Meyer on behalf of the ILA Integrity Committee

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