26 June 2017 by Graham Long
A company’s reputation is a fragile asset, says Graham Long
A company’s reputation is possibly its most valuable asset. The benefit of safeguarding reputation is ultimately for the long-term sustainability of the company. Should that reputation be called into question, it is usually the company secretary who is tasked with steering the board and the management team through the crisis.
A mere rumour, a hint of impropriety, or a single social media post gone viral can damage – or worse, destroy – reputations in an instant, not to mention shareholder confidence. But the protection of the company’s reputation cannot be achieved by merely implementing policy and tick-box compliance. Employees and other stakeholders expect there to be a mechanism by which they can speak up – to you first, not the media, Twitter, or the regulator.
As company secretaries are the central information point for reporting and governance matters, with a crucial role in the quality and flow of information to the board, the influence they have on the board’s decision-making process is unique.
Does your company culture encourage speaking up? Changing or improving an ethos and culture within a company does not happen overnight, nor is there a silver-bullet product to make things right, but creating and maintaining the right tone from the top is the bedrock of a robust ethics and compliance programme.
Evershed’s recent ‘Beneath the Surface’ report on bribery and corruption states: ‘Employees are more likely to blow the whistle when they hear a strong tone from the top, when they believe the company will respond to their concerns, and when there is a whistleblowing hotline in place.’
A reputation once broken could possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep its eyes on the spot where the crack was. Is it not better strategy to stop the crack appearing in the first place?