Given the complex business world that we are all navigating, it is increasingly important that we nurture our business relationships, and develop true partnerships with our customers, supply-chain and other stakeholders underpinned by our Philosophy to do what is right.
Whether this is being led by regulatory obligations or a desire to best leverage relationships, it is clear that businesses are moving away from purely transactional relationships, and focusing on closer alignment to ensure there is a mutual appreciation and respect of each other’s company values, standards, and expectations. This is where our philosophy and its focus on integrity is so important.
In light of this, I want you to ask yourself an important question:
Do your customers, suppliers, and other partners work with the level of integrity your company expects?
Is the answer, yes? Or no? Or are you unsure?
There is likely to be a fundamental question you need to ask:
How does my company define integrity?
When we look at the definition of integrity, we see words such as “honesty” and “morals”. We may find a near-infinite range of memes telling us:
”Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching”. However, the fact remains, it is the responsibility of a business to define their image of integrity, build a culture that supports meeting it, and identify what is expected of its partners.
Kyocera defines its culture based on the philosophy of our founder Dr Kazuo Inamori who said that Kyocera’s mission is “to do what is right as a human being”, a concept we include in all our decision making. By showing the importance of fairness and diligent effort, it serves as a paradigm for our conduct.
…And yes, honesty, morals, and doing the right thing even when no one is watching is a fundamental part of this.
A good way of understanding what an organisation considers as part of their scope of integrity is by reviewing its Code of Conduct (or code of ethics, or other alternative vernacular).
An increasing number of businesses are using business codes as a vehicle for clearly communicating their standards of integrity and expectations of internal and external stakeholders. These codes often align to contractual agreements, meaning that if employees, suppliers, and customers cannot meet the code expectations, they simply will not be engaged.
We have in recent years seen the scope of Codes of Conduct growing to fit around our views of integrity. In many cases, you will likely see common topics such as health and safety, sustainability, diversity, modern slavery, and data privacy, in addition to traditional topics such as anti-bribery and corruption.
It is part of an evolution whereby Environmental, Social, & Governance (ESG) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) have become an integral part of our business decisions, including the organisations we choose to work with.
It is imperative that all partners in our supply chain align with our Philosopy. Kyocera Document Solutions UK are demonstrating this with the launch of a Supplier Code of Conduct, which outlines our expectations of our supply chain, to confidently deliver integrity to our customers and ensure that we all do what is right.
As with any partnership, to truly get the best out of it, you need to actively engage and support each other. Mutual support between customer and supplier will not only improve performance but also help ensure adherence to compliance requirements. This includes understanding the needs and expectations of our partners and establishing ways of working that help achieve this.
Using a recent example for Kyocera Document Solutions UK, our obligations to identify our scope 3 (indirect) carbon emissions for inclusion in our Carbon Reduction Plan, has involved us reaching out to suppliers for support with gathering information.
In particular, we worked closely with two of our key suppliers to clearly define the information needed in order to accurately assess our indirect CO₂ emissions through their activities. As socially responsible businesses, our suppliers were well positioned to support us in our request and responded promptly with accurate figures. We were thrilled with this support which demonstrated they were able to understand our needs and act with the level of integrity we wanted.
Failing to act with integrity can not only lead to significant punitive damages but also have a catastrophic impact on both brand reputation and trust. Whilst business leaders may apportion blame to “a few bad apples” in light of transgressions, it is important to remember that it is the organisation’s culture and approach to integrity that facilitates such behaviour. Accountability starts at the top and leadership needs to be setting the correct example for staff.
Similarly, organisations must be able to demonstrate to their customers, shareholders and employees that they are accountable for their supply chain. They need to ensure their partners are willing and able to meet our requirements and standards, whether this is through a robust onboarding process, capability audits, or adherence to Codes of Conduct. Businesses recognise that it is no longer acceptable to shirk responsibility for partner misdeeds when these can cause reputational damage and directly or indirectly implicate them in improper activity.
During my career I’ve (unfortunately) had to manage the consequences when companies within the supply chain, our so-called partners, have not acted with integrity. I’ve learned to ensure robust policies and processes are established to ensure that those we partner and work with are aligned on integrity.