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Building on firm ethical foundations

Instilling a true moral compass within your organisation can mean leaving yourself open to independent assessment

Richard Anderson Group Legal and Compliance Director, Marston Holdings

Business ethics are the set of moral principles that guides an organisation. At Marston Holdings, business ethics are

at the heart of our organisation; not only in terms of how we conduct business, but also in leading the ethical agenda for the enforcement industry.

Why are business ethics important? Business decisions, at all levels of the organisation, have an ethical dimension. Day-to-day interactions with customers,

staff, clients, suppliers, finance providers and regulators may involve an important ethical judgement. Doing the right thing does not need to be

a barrier to progress; quite the opposite. We believe that doing the right thing for customers and stakeholders via a holistic approach is also good for business. For example, supporting vulnerable

customers in their time of need builds trust and makes it more likely that customers will communicate with us in the future, especially if their circumstances change or they have a problem.

How can the leadership team help? The tone from the top is hugely important in terms of communicating business ethics. People will follow leaders who inspire them to act in the right way. Leaders must be able to lead by example and actions

can speak louder than words, so we should all feel empowered to call out unethical activities, even if they are not in our area of responsibility. Ethics, therefore, cannot simply be one person’s responsibility

or high up in the management structure. Everyone needs an ethical compass and the right toolkit to guide them through their day-to-day activities.

March 2017

The tone from the top is hugely important in terms of communicating business ethics. People will follow leaders who inspire them to act in the right way

The acid test for leaders is what happens

when they are not around. Ethical decision making should be ‘simply the way we do things round here’. I am very pleased to say that I believe this

to be the case at Marston Holdings, but it is a crucial question for every organisation.

Continuously challenging ourselves If we want our people to do the right thing day after day, we need a strong ethical culture. Otherwise it is like building a castle on sand. To understand the position we were

starting from, we underwent our first independent ethical audit, conducted by Rockpools. The audit measured the cultures and behaviours in our organisation, and determined the extent to which our values of respect,

transparency, accountability,

professionalism and innovation are embedded across our people and processes. It also sets out objectives for us to meet, and subsequent audits have measured our progress against these. The delivery of ethical objectives is

monitored through fortnightly meetings of our Ethics Committee, to provide regular oversight of Corporate Social Responsibility. It can be difficult to bare your soul

and leave yourself open to independent scrutiny and judgement, but Marston

embraces this feedback. In addition to our ethical audit, we have an Advisory Group

chaired by Elizabeth Filkin, CBE, former Chief Executive of the Citizens Advice Bureau and Parliamentary Standards Commissioner. The Advisory Group provides an independent challenge to Marston’s business culture and practices, assessing whether proper ethical standards have been applied, and holding the directors to account for their work across the business.

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