Ethics and compliance: In an age of AI, remote work, and new regulations, ethics programs turn focus to risk mitigation and analysis

by | Apr 4, 2024 | Public Relations

In the rapidly changing workplace environment, companies are choosing to prioritize managing and avoiding risk in their ethics and compliance (E&C) decisions, reveals a news study from E&C solutions firm LRN Corporation. The research found that risk mitigation and risk analysis were the main areas that E&C programs prioritized over the past 12 months as the use of AI, hybrid working models, and regulatory action increased in frequency last year.

The latest edition of the firm’s Ethics & Compliance Program Effectiveness report also found that over 60 percent of organizations have incorporated ethical behavior into performance systems, major hiring decisions, promotion, and bonuses, showcasing the use of incentives to promote risk-adverse behavior.

risk management

According to the report, the focus of E&C programs has shifted significantly in the past year, from areas like bribery and corruption (27 percent) to complex government regulations (94% have put effort into this), information security including AI (90 percent), and data protection (91 percent). In tandem, nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of organizations say they have made significant changes to their E&C programs to better reflect the needs of remote and hybrid employees.

About half (52 percent) of respondents said their executive leaders are generally “walking the talk” when it comes to dealing with compliance risks by operationalizing company values. However, the data also illustrates that these decisions are largely taken by executive leadership (76 percent), rather than middle managers (39 percent)—indicating that those at the middle level may be struggling to make difficult decisions consistent with company values and purpose.

The report also found that 53 percent of organizations with high-performing E&C programs have disciplined or terminated a senior executive for unethical behavior in the past year, and that there is a growing global use of compensation clawbacks in the event of misconduct—with 73 percent of organizations with high-impact programs having clawback policies in place.

risk management

Other notable findings from this year’s report include:

  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%) indicated that their boards actively ensured that misconduct by senior executives or excellent performers was addressed within the last year.
  • 77 percent of E&C professionals indicated their organization emphasizes values rather than rules to motivate ethical behavior—a 27 percentage-point increase from when LRN first asked this type of question in 2016.
  • More than four out of five high-performing programs indicated that their board engaged in E&C oversight, possessed E&C expertise, and received E&C training—1.4 times more than less-effective programs.
  • Fewer (only 38 percent) respondents said they have strengthened risk controls in the areas of sanctions and trade controls, down from 45 percent just two years ago, despite an increased focus on the global risk landscape and the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East as well as continued sanctions on China, Russia, Iran, and other countries.

Download the full report here.

risk management

This year’s edition marks the 10th anniversary of the report and is based on a survey of more than 1,400 E&C professionals, the vast majority of which come from companies and organizations with at least 1,000 employees in 19 different countries and 26 industries across North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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