The past few years have seen a radical change in the relationship between business and society. Events like the credit crunch and subsequent financial crises have eroded public trust in business and increased scrutiny of how businesses behave.
Of course, businesses need to make money. But we believe the profit motive has to be balanced with a wider range of issues, so that financial value is created in a more responsible way.
As a professional services firm, our success depends on our ability to build and sustain trust.
To help maintain this trust, we've created an ethical framework that incorporates applicable standards, laws and regulations - such as the legal and regulatory standards set to maintain our independence from our audit clients.
But we've chosen to go beyond these legal requirements and establish a culture that upholds integrity, objectivity and professional ethics, and professional competence. We've captured how we do this in our Code of Conduct which covers all our work, as well as a supplementary tax code of conduct for our tax practice.
The tone for our ethical approach is set right at the top of the firm, thereby nurturing a culture that supports and encourages all of our people to do the right thing, especially when they have to make difficult decisions.
We charge all our people with the responsibility to know, understand and comply with the Code's guidelines and values - including excellence, teamwork and leadership.
We embed the need for quality throughout our business, with detailed procedures and policies in place regarding ethics, human resources and the way we engage with our clients, for example. Our leadership team endorses these procedures and policies.
Opportunities and risks
It's vital that everyone who comes into contact with us can trust us. That's why we strongly emphasise ethics and compliance. We aim to do business with confidence, integrity and humility. Doing the right thing, meanwhile, is one of our key values - and resides at the heart of our culture.
Trust with our clients, suppliers, our people and our other stakeholders means we can commit more quickly to actions, decisions and investment in innovations. It also allows us to attract and retain talented employees.
Programmes and systems
We have a strong set of internal programmes and systems in place to uphold our values and make sure we all adhere to our Code. These include:
Ethics training. All of our partners, staff and contractors undertake regular mandatory training to help them understand our ethical requirements, and we take a zero tolerance approach to non-completion of this training. We make it clear that we expect our people to embrace both the spirit and the letter of these requirements. Given the importance of ethics to our continued success, we’re including a new metric in our scorecard this year to reflect our people’s perception of how ingrained ethical behaviour is in the business, measured through our youmatter people survey. We’re also including a metric for the number of dismissals for misconduct.
Independence. We have policies, procedures and practices in place to make sure we maintain personal and firm independence, non-audit services and fee arrangements, and business relationships. A mandatory part of our training, these are monitored, reported directly to the Executive Board and can result in disciplinary action if violated. So, this year we’re reporting on breaches of external auditor independence regulations that were reported to the Audit Independence Unit.
Confidentiality. Confidentiality is vital to our reputation. Misusing or losing confidential client information or personal data doesn't just expose our clients to risk, or us to legal proceedings. It can also harm our reputation. All partners and staff receive regular training on their confidentiality obligations.
We operate an Information Security Management System that complies with the requirements of ISO/IEC 27001:2005 for all client data that comes under our control or ownership.
Our information security policies and procedures make sure that:
Our ISO27001 certification is subject to ongoing external audits at all of our UK sites. We’re now reporting on the number of nonconformities to the standard reported by our external assessors as an indicator of our commitment to continual improvement in this area.
For more information on the individual standards that we use to drive internal process discipline see our standards page.
Client and engagement acceptance. We have rigorous procedures for accepting and continuing clients and specific engagements. They help us to understand whether risks related to an existing or potential client are manageable, and whether we should do business with particular businesses or people.
Anti-bribery. Our Code of Conduct makes it clear that it's unacceptable for our people to solicit, accept, offer, promise or pay bribes. We've had in place for some time policies, training and procedures designed to prevent bribery. In preparation for the implementation of the Bribery Act 2010, we assessed our policies and procedures and took appropriate actions to make sure they satisfactorily address bribery-related risk.
Whistle-blowing. Our whistle-blowing helpline (0800 169 3590) is available to any partner or employee who comes across bad business conduct or unethical behaviour that can't be resolved locally or for which the normal consultation process isn't suitable. Anyone raising a genuine concern will be protected from victimisation provided they act in good faith. Third parties can also telephone the whistle-blowing helpline.