Business Code of Ethics: Case studies of KPMG & Grant Thornton

In addition to implementing a similar hotline facility, Grant Thornton undertakes efforts to increase awareness about individual responsibility in contributing to the overall standards of the firm.  For example, much too often, when some “potentially illegal or unethical business conduct” (Dressendofer, 2003) does not affect an individual directly, then it is likely to go unreported and unaddressed.  Keeping this in mind, the drafters of the code of ethics have included strict policies so that associates and employees can freely report their concerns about suspected breaches in the ethical code without fear of negative consequences.  By making it a violation of employment agreement to not report such breaches and violations, the firm gives a clear message to its employees as to how important business standards are.  Those who violate the company’s ethical standards, irrespective of designation or tenure, may be subject to legal disciplinary action that can lead to termination of employment (for employees) and contract annulment (for other associates) (Dressendofer, 2003)

KPMG’s core values reflect their aspiration for achieving the highest standard of business conduct.  The core ethical values of KPMG are as follows:

We lead by example.

We, as a firm and as individuals, act in a manner that exemplifies what we expect of each other and our clients, and what our clients should expect of us.

We work together.

We team to bring out the best from our combined talents, experiences, knowledge, and cultures, thereby creating strong and successful relationships.

We respect the individual.

We respect all individuals for their diversity, who they are, and what they bring as individuals and as team members for the benefit of our clients and the firm.

We seek the facts and provide insight.

We listen to and proactively challenge different points of view in order to arrive at the right judgments.

We are open and honest in our communication.

We encourage timely, clear, and constructive two-way communication.

We are committed to our communities.

We, as individuals and teams, use our time and resources to support our local communities.

Above all, we act with integrity.

We are professional first and foremost; we take pride in being part of KPMG, and we are committed to objectivity, quality, and service of the highest standards.” (Dressendofer, 2003)

These core ethical values, in a way, define KPMG’s business culture and its commitment to the “highest principles of personal and professional conduct”. They also stand for how different stakeholders relate with one another and what they expect of their associates and vice versa. Hence, judging by the above list, KPMG’s code of ethics is a balanced and a robust one.  Additionally, KPMG provides its employees with a checklist of questions to ask themselves in moments of doubt or hesitation.  They are:

Does my action comply with the spirit and letter of the law?

Is my conduct consistent with KPMG’s core set of ethical and professional standards?

Does my decision stand for the correct course of action?

Is my decision being driven by responsible professional judgment?

Would I feel confident to explain my decision, if it were made public? (Martin, 2004)

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