Live from the ECEI – Creating an Ethical Ambassador Community

Ethical Ellie, the SCCE's official ethics mascot.
Ethical Ellie, the SCCE’s official ethics mascot.

Today, Ruth Steinholtz spoke about creating ethics ambassadors in your companies. Since many studies show a disconnect exists between what the low level employees perceive versus management’s perceptions, creating ethical ambassadors may be a way to bridge that gap.

The term ethical ambassador is intentionally chosen because of the neutrality of the word. Other word, such as monitor or officer may have harsh connotations to some cultures (particularly those from military regimes). Your ethics ambassadors will serve as a diplomatic corp for your ethics and compliance program.

So you’re probably wondering what exactly is an ethical ambassador? An ethics ambassador is an existing employee that either volunteers, or is delegated to spend 5-15% of their work time on internal ethics issues. They’re given training to act as advocates for all levels in the company, and have special responsibilities. These ambassadors are not paid for their services (except their normal salaries). When someone accepts the ambassadorship, they are volunteering to take on additional responsibilities over and above their day jobs.

As Ruth explained, you want your ethics ambassadors to have some certain characteristics:

  • knowledge of the organization’s ethics policy (but they don’t need to be experts)
  • credibility with those around them, and management
  • good networking skills
  • culturally sensitive, with a high EQ
  • great communication skills
  • integrity (they do what they say they’re going to)
  • passion and genuine interest in ethics

While responsibilities vary by organization, generally ethics ambassadors can use these characteristics to help you and your compliance and ethics program. Many ambassadors are useful resources by providing the home office with the local perspective – whether it be a few miles, or a few thousand, away. In some organizations, they also provide a training function and act as an ethical-decision-making coach.

Most importantly, however, is that your ethical ambassadors are your culture-bearers. These are the folks implementing your ethical culture on the front lines of your organization. They represent your compliance and ethics program to the organization as a whole, and they can also help you gain a deeper understanding of the cultural impact your compliance and ethics training is having.