CORPORATE responsibility (CR) goes beyond being charitable; it is also about how companies do business in a responsible manner, said PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Malaysia executive chairman Datuk Johan Raslan.
“The basis of CR for us is doing our business ethically and trying to do the right thing at all times.
“PwC realised we needed to have our values and good behaviour of doing business codified and standardised so that every PwC firm can adhere to them,” he told StarBiz.
In recent years, corporate scandals globally - some resulting in the collapse of companies - have also prompted the PwC network of firms to put in place processes and guidelines to strengthen its role as trusted business advisors.
Towards this end, PwC's risk management and independence framework deals with the regulatory aspect while the ethics and business conduct (E&BC) programme, which is supported by the code of conduct (CoC), deals with the behavioural aspect.
“The code defines how we should behave and conduct business in a responsible manner. It is all about the way we do business,” Johan said.
There are two key components in the CoC. The first part consists of guidelines on upholding PwC's reputation, behaving professionally, independence and objectivity, conflict of interest, respecting others and PwC's diversity, and corporate responsibility.
“For example, in a forum when people expect us to behave/conduct ourselves as representatives of PwC, we generally state PwC's view and not our own. We respect the confidentiality of our clients and our people.
“Bribery is obviously an unethical behaviour and the CoC goes further to explain that gifts or favours from clients are not to be accepted unless they are of such a nominal value that it would not create self-interest or familiarity with the client,” Johan said.
The second part of the code provides a framework for ethical decision-making to help PwC staff when dealing with grey areas.
“There is a series of steps and questions that our people can ask themselves before making a difficult decision. (See table)
“No code can address every situation that an individual may encounter. The ethical framework helps our people to exercise good judgment and proper business conduct,” said PwC Malaysia managing director Chin Kwai Fatt.
PwC's network of member firms has also established the Global Risk Management and Compliance Programme in order to create a culture of consistent Risk Management and Compliance across PwC.
Chin said the programme consisted of a comprehensive system of setting standards, monitoring compliance and following up on weaknesses to continually improve.
“We have invested over 11,000 hours on compliance and independence training to ensure that we achieve a compliance culture. We have a dedicated compliance and independence training team to conduct the training.
“We take this very seriously and those who do not comply, are penalised. This includes deferment, forfeiture of bonus and even dismissal,” he stressed.
PwC policies require all its managers (including assistant managers) and partners to maintain an investment profile in the Global Portfolio System. This means, they and their immediate family members, will not be able to do things such as obtaining home mortgages, bank overdrafts or automobile loans from a bank who is a client; and investing or buying shares in a client's business.
PwC Malaysia also has an upstream communications process, called SPEAK UP, covering minor to major misconduct. If an employee is aggrieved about inappropriate and unethical behaviour of a fellow employee, he/she is able to make a complaint which is kept confidential.
“We monitor not only the reports but the queries as they can give us an indication of what can be improved in the office,” Johan said, adding that complaints were few and many had to do with respecting each other.
PwC also conducts an annual Global People Survey.
PwC Malaysia had a 76% response rate for the survey last year, with 81% of its staff satisfied with the actions it is taking to be socially responsible. “The survey is an important tool for us to understand the views of our people while measuring the effectiveness of our policies and standards,” Chin said.
Johan highlighted several areas that were critical to support PwC's business culture.
“As leaders of the firm we must walk the talk and lead by example.
“Leadership development is another important area. We provide training not only on the technical aspects of the business such as financial reporting standards but also on soft skills,” he said.
The firm also believes in rewarding the right behaviours such as the Bravo Award (Best in class, Remarkable, Awesome, Valuable and Outstanding), which recognises employees who demonstrate extraordinary contributions and efforts; and the PwC Citizen Award which focuses on community work and contributions to the country.
“We are continuously learning – coming across new issues all the time. We do not feel we are in any way perfect. We still have some ways to go,” Johan said.
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