Ethics Ambassadors: Promoting ethical culture on the front line

Published 9 January 2017
​Stora Enso’s purpose of “Do good for the people and planet” as well as corporate values of “Lead” and “Do What’s Right” are the fundamental building blocks of our performance on ethical questions. But how can we ensure these purpose and values are realised whenever our 26 000 employees around the globe make decisions in their everyday work? This is where the work of Stora Enso’s new Ethics Ambassadors starts.
Can I pay for our customer’s dinner? Could I hire my brother? Did I put that confidential paper in the right bin? We face such ethical questions in our work every day. Ethics must guide us constantly, and help us to judge whether our choices and behaviour are ethically justifiable. In the beginning of 2017 the newly trained Ethics Ambassadors will start in their new voluntary positions, working to promote and embed ethical values throughout Stora Enso. The ambassadors are existing employees who are keen to spread the message of business ethics. Their work may involve acting as a good and trustworthy colleague, actively giving training on our policies, or just taking part in casual discussions on ethics with colleagues around the coffee machine.

“You could describe the role of an Ethics Ambassador as an in-house facilitator and a cultural bearer,” explains Pontus Selderman, Lead Counsel, Ethics and Compliance at Stora Enso. “Our ambassadors will help us to implement our ethical culture on the front line, and build bridges between our Ethics and Compliance Programme and our day-to-day business. They will also help us with feedback, allowing us to constantly improve our approach to ethics.”

Legal compliance – only half the story

From their workplaces in different positions, divisions and functions around the world, members of our diverse network of ambassadors will provide valuable local knowledge. “Employees carefully observe whether their leaders live by the values they preach,” says Professor Guido Palazzo from the University of Lausanne, who is facilitating Stora Enso’s Ethics Ambassadors Programme.

“The Ethics Ambassadors can feel the temperature of the organization by listening to the stories people share about the company and its values. Already their mere existence should be a signal to the others that integrity is important for Stora Enso.”

Many companies see compliance for a purely legal question that has to be managed by a compliance department. Professor Palazzo feels that by doing this, such companies get it wrong. “Legal compliance in this sense is of course important, but it is only half of the story. If compliance is not embedded in a culture of integrity, which results from living shared values, it will just touch the surface of a corporation,” he says.

Adding meaning to everyday work

Many employees were keen to become an Ethics Ambassador, and almost 200 applications were received. One common factor for all applicants was that they wanted to find additional meaning and purpose in their professional lives, and make a real difference by helping to build up the company’s ethical culture.

One of the new ambassadors, Digital Communications Manager Ulrika MacGregor, recognises these motives: “Immediately after seeing the call for applications, I knew I wanted to get into this. I felt that this could be a concrete way to support the company, who I feel proud to work for, by spreading knowledge and inspiration in relation to ethical questions.”

Before starting work, the ambassadors will go through a training period organised to ensure they are familiar with all of Stora Enso’s relevant policies. They will also examine real life cases and take part in group discussions. “Through this training the ambassadors will find out how corporate cultures can gradually deteriorate over time, but also learn how this can be foreseen and prevented,” explains Professor Palazzo. “The training sessions have already changed the way I observe my surroundings and draw conclusions on decisions made by me and my colleagues every day,” says MacGregor. “I feel I’ve acquired a new tool for healthy questioning. And I’ve even found a way to put the ideas of philosophers such as Immanuel Kant into practice!”

“I’ve already been impressed by the seriousness of the initiative and the many people who volunteered to be part of it,” adds Palazzo. “This is an exciting experiment which could one day become a benchmark for other companies.”

Professor Guido Palazzo, Professor of Business Ethics at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, has wide-ranging experience on the subject of business ethics. He has provided related training for numerous multinational corporations and transnational organisations.