Leading with Integrity: The Trickledown Effect

by Beth Simon
Leading with integrity isn’t always simple or clear-cut. Still, supporting those at risk when they need it most, prioritizing inclusion and diversity, taking care of employees and being a good corporate citizen is good business. A focus on integrity also helped Unum earn recognition once again as one of Ethisphere’s World’s Most Ethical Companies in 2022.

When an organization leads with integrity, those values naturally impact the company’s culture and trickles down to the business model. Research has confirmed that ethical values can make a difference to the bottom-line when it comes to employee and customer retention.

Here are a just a few of the ways companies can lead with integrity:
  1. Work Together – Set clear expectations to protect customer data, continuously train employees on business ethics and compliance, and have a Code of Conduct policy that employees, business partners and stakeholders can access if the need arises. Building an ethical culture is not a one-person job. Everyone is responsible for creating an ethical and compliant environment.
  2. Follow the Process – Review company practices at least once a year. For example, conduct a formal risk assessment if the business, social or regulatory landscape changes. Leverage surveys to identify any gaps in the organization’s current process and develop an action plan to change when needed.
  3. Celebrate Ethical Wins – Take time to celebrate individual employee and overall business ethical wins. When an organization is named to an Ethisphere listing, highlight it on the company’s social media and digital channels. When an employee exhibits a value like ‘taking smart risks’, call their name in an employee meeting and share the values they considered when making the decision.
  4. Build a Strong Foundation – It starts at the top. Leaders should embody and emphasize ethical practices. At Unum, we have a strong ‘speak up’ culture. It’s not separate from the operation business model. It’s embedded in everything we do. From the visibility around ethics and compliance to how ethical practices impact performance, we know it all leads to better business performance.
  5. Expect It – Everyone else does. Vendors, customers, and potential employees want to know the organization they do business with follows the law and demonstrates a strong culture of integrity. Build ethical practices into business models and follow-up to ensure the company mission and goals are met with a high degree of ethics at all levels. It’s an expectation.
  6. Do Good – With an increased call for ethical leadership and corporate accountability, external business practices need to mirror internal ones. Place emphasis on inclusion and diversity because it’s the right thing to do. Support charitable organizations that align with company values. We live in a global, multi-generational environment where someone can research a company with just a few clicks. Use organizational digital assets, like websites and newsrooms, to show how your company does good in the community.
  7. Continuous Improvement – Leading with ethics is one of the most important actions to keep the trust of stakeholders. A business must be consistent, fair, professional and responsible. Approach your work with a continuous improvement mindset to ensure you are considering the most effective way to emphasize the company’s commitment to ethics and compliance.
Companies have seen an increased call for ethical leadership, corporate accountability, and sustainability in business decision making. Embedding an ethical and compliant culture in your business model and leading with integrity are critical components to meet the evolving expectations of employees, customers, and shareholders.

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About Unum Group

Unum Group (NYSE: UNM), an international provider of workplace benefits and services, has been helping workers and their families for 175 years. Through its Unum and Colonial Life brands, the company offers disability, life, accident, critical illness, dental, vision and stop-loss insurance; leave and absence management support and behavioral health services. In 2022, Unum reported revenues of about $12 billion and paid $8 billion in benefits. The Fortune 500 company is one of the 2023 World’s Most Ethical Companies, recognized by Ethisphere®. 

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