The Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) is celebrating, in its own words, “10 years of supporting and developing the compliance profession.” It’s a landmark moment to take stock of the SCCE’s achievements and to consider how the compliance field is progressing: where the journey started, what propels it and where it’s going.
I offer my observations and reflection on the SCCE and the compliance field in follow-on posts. My take-away point, supported in later posts, is this: Compliance officers who join the SCCE are helping this profession push forward.
I could not attend all the workshops and report on only what I saw. The details of the three days of 104 workshops for over 1,300 compliance officers from around the world are on the SCCE web site. The workshops are available for download from the SCCE.
Disclosure: I attended the SCCE’s 2014 Compliance & Ethics Institute in Chicago on September 14-17 on a “press pass” for the FCPA Blog at the invitation of the SCCE. The SCCE, a sponsor of the FCPA Blog, waived the conference fee. I covered costs of travel and lodging and also donated my time pro bono.
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Anyone who fights for a cause learns quickly that good ideas alone, or being on the right side, do not add up to victory. Change is often about politics and politics is always about power. Power is about teamwork and organizing a base of support.
The compliance profession is still trying to be a profession and an established business discipline. It’s fighting for recognition — a work in progress that challenges the status quo. And its gains upset and puzzle many of those who benefit from the power they have in the status quo.
Compliance professionals, who so often find themselves on the other side of arguments with senior management, understand the need for true friends and powerful ones at that. The SCCE is our powerful friend. While we do the daily work of compliance officers, the SCCE is organizing the compliance profession.
Individually, we’re all learning on the job, by trial and error. Meanwhile, the SCCE is building the infrastructure for this new profession of ours. Need tips on third party due diligence on supply chains, how to train board members, or interview whistleblowers? Try the SCCE’s conferences, networking, social media and articles by thought leaders with decades of experience. The SCCE collects best practices and lessons-learned on the job and makes them available to compliance officers around the world.
Because of the determined arguments of SCCE-allied chief ethics and compliance officers and thought leaders, compliance officers overcame resistance to changes critical to the profession’s success. Today COs are moving beyond a law-department identity and occupy an independent, autonomous seat at the C-suite table. Compliance officers at SCCE forums are standing on each others’ shoulders, learning from each other about innovative management techniques and professional expertise to make the new role a reality.
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I’ve said before that compliance is not just a program but a system. It reaches beyond a company’s borders to the larger society and reacts to global dynamics that include prosecutors, judges, the media, directors, universities and a lot of other moving parts. That’s why just one compliance officer, or all the compliance officers at just one company, can’t engage the system. It’s also why the SCCE models a speak-up culture for the compliance field and encourages long-term advocacy to challenge the status quo on behalf of compliance and compliance officers.
Compliance officers know that behind the scenes, without public awareness, they protect their companies and the public from destructive lapses in business operations or misconduct. The SCCE understands the mission and can explain what compliance officers do and why it should command the attention and resources to grow.
So, if you have not already joined the SCCE, I ask you to consider it today. Don’t join the SCCE because it’s the only compliance organization; there are others. But this is a very focused, member-driven group that speaks for compliance officers. Don’t join only because you’ll benefit from it, but rather because the compliance profession needs it, and because it’s up to us to make the SCCE what compliance officers want it to be.
Celebrating 10 years of work, the SCCE has helped launch a new era for compliance officers. Join up to join in.
Michael Scher is a senior editor of the FCPA Blog. He has over three decades of experience as a senior compliance officer and attorney for international transactions. He can be contacted here.