How to create and maintain an ethical culture

  • Posted on 02.05.2018

How to create and maintain an ethical culture


David Perez

President and Chief Executive Officer, Terumo BCT and Chair, Global Blood Management Business, Terumo Corporation, Board Member and Committee Member, AdvaMed


This blog is part of the GMTCC 2018 blog series. You can follow the conversation under #GMTCC and find more details and at Check out related blogs: Swifter, Higher, Stronger: Promoting MedTech Ethics on the Global StageGlobal Responsibility, Global Ethics and Compliance, Global Principles for MedTech Innovation, Progress and new challenges after 10 years of collaboration, Distributors play key role in compliance,New industry code must safeguard independent medical education and Health data can transform our lives-but must be used wisely

The value of behaving with integrity is increasingly clear: companies who understand the importance of ethics attract the best people, protect their brands and maximise business performance.

However, good behaviour is not something that happens by accident. Ethics is intentional. The question is how a company can develop an ethical culture that helps associates find more meaning in their work, appeals to more customers and end-users, and ultimately helps business to thrive.

It is common for companies to state their mission, vision and values. But what really sets your company apart is by helping your associates truly understand these and live them daily.

Training – and regular retraining – is essential. While leaders can and must set an example, they also must train and educate associates about exactly “what right looks like.” A single associate’s lack of knowledge can have consequences for your company. For example, what if a new associate comes from an industry where doing business on the golf course is the norm? That person may have high integrity but still need training on the unique requirements of the ethical code your company follows.

Providing easy access to training material and delivering in-person training are vital. Where your business operates globally, training resources should be locally relevant and, wherever possible, translated into the local business language.

For in-person training sessions, make sure associates’ questions are answered promptly, respectfully and completely – otherwise, they will stop asking, and two-way communication will end. Be sure to emphasize the spirit, not just the details, of your code of conduct and other applicable codes and laws.

Reward the behaviour you want. If you tell associates that you value integrity as highly as financial performance, but you reward only financial performance, your words ring hollow. Do you measure and report on any compliance-based metrics? When an associate proposes an unorthodox decision that will be right for the long-term customer relationship but will result in less short-term revenue, do you acknowledge it? By broadening your definition of what deserves recognition, you underscore the importance of integrity.

Encourage dialogue. If you never hear bad news, it is likely that you have a culture where associates are afraid to bring up problems or disagreements and discuss them openly. Beware of how your own cognitive biases and incentive systems can conspire to negatively skew behaviour and obscure it from view. Only by understanding these influences can leaders create the ethical organizations they aspire to run.

Understand the boundaries of culture. A great challenge of global business is to understand and respect different cultures and customs while maintaining clear standards that apply worldwide. Not participating in customs such as elaborate corporate gift-giving – deeply ingrained in some cultures, but a violation of your company or industry code of ethics – may make competition more difficult for associates in some areas. Nonetheless, a company’s code of conduct should reflect its values and set the ethical foundation that informs how business is conducted in every country.

While a strong culture of ethics does not guarantee that no lapses will ever occur, it does provide a resilience that may help your company to correct and recover more quickly if they do occur. The results benefit your company, your customers and your industry.


David Perez, President and Chief Executive Officer, Terumo BCT and Chair, Global Blood Management Business, Terumo Corporation, Board Member and Committee Member, AdvaMed

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