Ethics is a particularly important subject in an industry such as fire and security because the result of unethical actions might make the difference in life and death. For example, if an employee acts unethically when servicing a fire extinguisher, the result could be to burn down the building.
Although ethics is not a common topic of discussion in the fire and security industry, perhaps it should be. Chubb Fire and Security is a company that provides an example of how an emphasis on ethics can benefit a company, their employees, their customers and the whole world.
Fire safety and security risks
“The fire and security industry is different than others because lives and people’s safety are on the line,” says Harv Dulay, Director of Ethics and Compliance at Chubb Fire and Security. “Our purpose is to protect clients from fire safety and security risks. This is a business where no one should take short cuts. It is important to do the right thing all the time, every time, and it’s about protecting lives and property.”
At Chubb, we have a code of ethics, our ‘bible,’ that is issued to employees when they start"
“At Chubb, we have a code of ethics, our ‘bible,’ that is issued to employees when they start,” says Dulay. “Within the bible are core fundamental rules about what’s acceptable and not acceptable. We lay it out for employees very specifically. They understand and embrace the code of ethics, which is based on trust, integrity, respect, innovation and excellence.”
“If you get those right, the business moves in the right direction. A key piece of our ethics policy is based on trust. We relate to others with openness, transparency, and empathy. It makes Chubb a better place to work and enables us to provide better service to customers.”
For Chubb, ethics is not just theoretical, but ethical concepts play out every day in practical ways. An example might be an engineer who goes to a customer’s site and is asked to do a task that is outside his or her duties and/or not allowed under the ethics policy. The pressure might be even greater if the employee is struggling to meet a sales figure. The code of ethics addresses specific situations and outlines the behaviour that is expected.
In another example, a customer asked a Chubb technician to forge a certificate saying the customer had previously passed a fire audit in order to validate his previous year’s insurance. Showing ethical integrity, the technician was able to cite the company’s Code of Ethics and refuse to do it. The technician also reported the situation to his Ethics and Compliance Officer. Customers benefit, too.
Delivering ethics excellence
It’s a message heard from the top down, from everyone in the company"
One of Chubb’s sales associates immediately reporting a situation in which all the tenders and competitors’ prices were visible as they prepared a tender for upload to a customer portal. Not only did the sales associate deliver ethics excellence by reporting the issue, he also helped a grateful customer who thereby avoided anti-trust issues, says Dulay.
“Ethics is not just a current issue,” says Dulay. “It’s embedded in our values and has been since the beginning. Ethics is making sure people do the right things.” Ethics is integrated into the Chubb business model, and everyone knows what is expected of them. “It’s a message heard from the top down, from everyone in the company.”
On-line training modules
Ethics discussions begin for employees at Chubb when they join the company; clear instructions about ethics are included as part of employee induction. There are nine modules of ethics training during employee orientation, and a discussion with an Ethics and Compliance Officer is part of the onboarding process.
The training program includes information about ethics, company expectations around ethics, where to go for questions about ethical issues, and details of the anonymous ombudsman program. Additionally, field staff are trained by their supervisors via regular face-to-face ethics toolbox talks. Office staff complete a series of on-line ethics training modules regularly. A series of supervisor-led trainings encourage managers to deliver face-to-face ethics training to their team, citing real-life examples. Healthy discussions are encouraged to deal with any ‘gray areas.’
Worldwide implementation of data security
Some 14,000 employees globally have multiple options when it comes to reporting an issue
Dulay estimates that ethics and compliance officers spend about half their time answering questions and clarifying for employees what’s expected in the code of ethics. Some 14,000 employees globally have multiple options when it comes to reporting an issue, and there are full-time Ethics and Compliances Officers in every country where Chubb does business.
A reflection of Chubb’s global approach to compliance is their worldwide implementation of data security requirements of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); the company saw the benefits of the program for any jurisdiction. Training and education are part of Chubb’s investment in ethics. For example, a recent module on ‘respect in the workplace’ covered the need to create a company culture in which everyone feels respected. “Training and continuous communication are embedded in the organisation,” says Dulay.
Managing potential conflicts proactively
“We invest in the process,” says Dulay. “We have had employees who left the company and then come back. They realised the importance of ethics and rejoined us. We start with the foundation that we would rather lose business than give up our ethical standards,” says Dulay.
Some business is not worth getting if you don’t adhere to your values"
“We won’t abandon our policies even if there is money at stake. Some business is not worth getting if you don’t adhere to your values. We manage potential conflicts proactively by creating and instituting methods in which employees have access to tools they can use to be successful and adaptable in times of change,” says Dulay. “Also, we will not tolerate retaliation against any employee who reports wrongdoing – regardless of the outcome of the investigation.”
Forming good ethics behaviour
And while there is no specific monetary value assigned to good ethical practices, success can be measured. “We measure it by people’s conduct, the number of cases we have, and awareness,” says Dulay. “It’s good for employee morale, and it’s good for customers and our business. It’s not measurable, but it is fundamental for business and customers.”
“The work we do as a company can impact people’s lives so it is important that everyone has an understanding of the importance of their role,” says Dulay. A common misconception about ethics is: “If no one is watching, it must be ok.” However, Dulay says it is the things employees do when no one is watching or checking in on them that form good ethics behaviour. During training, Chubb emphasises that ethics is about doing the right thing, all the time even if no one is watching.