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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

What's The Difference Between Compliance And Ethics?

Bruce Weinstein
Originally posted May 9, 2019

I've noticed some confusion about the roles that ethics and compliance play in organizations. This confusion arises, in part, from the way these two fields are identified. Some companies have only a compliance department. Others have a compliance and ethics (or ethics and compliance) department. Some companies have a Chief Ethics Officer separate from compliance.

To get some clarity on these crucial roles, I asked seven leaders who are involved in both ethics and compliance to explain the similarities and differences as they saw them. I'll present their views, offer my own analysis and then consider what this means for your career and your organization.


The Takeaways

What does all of this mean for you?

  1. If you're in compliance and/or ethics, it's worth having a clear understanding of what each department or program is about, how they're similar and how they differ. Then make sure that everyone in the organization understands these similarities and differences and what this means for their own roles.
  2. If you're not in compliance or ethics, find out how the company defines each area and what this means for you. Whether you want to move up in the organization or simply remain gainfully employed there, you will put yourself in good stead if you know the difference between ethics and compliance as your company defines them.
  3. No matter how your company views compliance and ethics, what its code of conduct is or whether you work within or outside of the compliance and ethics programs, it's not enough to ask, "What do laws, regulations or policies require of me?" The follow-up question should always be, "What is the right thing to do?"