In the previous blog, I interviewed Dr Janette Minnaar-van Veijeren, founding director of ProEthics (Pty)
Ltd. Today, I share the second part of the interview that deals with the practical aspects of organisational
ethics. During my corporate career as the company secretary of the social and ethics committee and the
chairperson of the ethics task team, I had the privilege of working closely with Dr Minnaar-van Veijeren
as a corporate consultant and can highly recommend the services of ProEthics.
Janette obtained her LLD, LLB and BLC degrees from the University of Pretoria, where she was
admitted as an advocate of the South African High Court in 1991. Her social contributions include
serving as a director on the board of the Ethics Institute, serving as head judge of the South African
Professional Services Awards (SAPSA), mentoring young professionals and many more. As a true
expert in her field, Janette has had the privilege to train the boards of some of the most successful
companies in South Africa.
In this blog, we continue the interview with Janette, drawing on her experiences and perspectives as an
What structures can an organisation use to promote ethical behaviour?
One of the ways to ensure that an ethical culture or a culture of integrity is embedded is to
establish an ethics office in the organisation. The office would be headed up by a chief ethics
officer with assistance from various ethics champions. This office therefore becomes a hub or
centre where employees can seek advice when they face ethical dilemmas. It is vital that the
leadership team is seen as supportive of organisational values and ethical initiatives. It should
support the ethics office financially to, for example, conduct training or to engage the assistance
of external ethics facilitators. The Companies Act and regulations require that organisations with
a turnover of more than R500 million per annum or more than 500 staff members establish a
social and ethics committee. This is a board committee that is responsible for initiating and
reporting on the ethics initiatives taken by the company.
Mention some of the elements or steps of an ethics management programme or an action plan.
This is the practical side of ethics management. Ethical leadership teams often get stuck with the
challenge of how to institutionalise ethics in the workplace. Other questions are, for example –
do we have properly constituted values and do our staff members know what the values mean
in daily work life? The chosen organisational values should be formalised in such a way that the
company would be proud to share the document (ethics statement) with staff and external
The next step is to implement the values. This happens when the organisation starts with ethics
awareness training and value-based decision-making training. Third parties or high-risk business
partners could be included in the training. This will set a clear tone of what the expected
standard ethical behaviour is in the organisation.
What other steps can be taken to build a culture of integrity?
Another step of encouraging ethical behaviour is to reward good ethical behaviour, to ensure
that those who are seen to be ethical are the ones who reap the benefits. Apply ethics screening
or integrity testing in the employment process. This will attract employees who share the same
values. Where there are ethical failures, the company must commit to taking disciplinary action.
It must correct wrongful behaviour to demonstrate its commitment to ethical behaviour. A
company can also use ethics surveys or health assessments to ascertain what the true state of
its ethical culture is.
Finally, continuously communicate your ethical standards. Ethics training is not a once-off event.
There must be a constant message from leadership that it is committed to create and maintain
a culture of integrity to benefit internal and external stakeholders.
How do you motivate your co-workers/staff/team members to adhere to ethical regulations?
By rewarding them, but also making sure that failures will have negative consequences. Most of
all, set the right example, irrespective of your seniority or rank.
If you want to build an ethical culture, ProEthics can assist you with a wide range of ethics services
such as ethics surveys, ethics investigations, and the implementation of ethical policies and frameworks.
Okina can assist with setting up a social and ethics committee, relevant task teams, the drafting of
agendas, checklists, terms of reference and committee administration. For more information, you can
contact Janette on www.proethics.co.za and Okina on www.okinacosec.co.za or
I hope that we have inspired you to embrace and implement ethics in your organisation.