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Business & Money

By approaching Sarbanes-Oxley compliance as an opportunity rather than a burden, companies can reap strategic rewards and become stronger.
Fortnightly Magazine - October 15 2003

without the Web.

"It would have been fair in the 1990s for companies to say, 'We have 30,000 employees and 40 percent turnover. There's no way to train all these people in our code of conduct and legal compliance,'" says Kirk Jordan, a vice president with Integrity Interactive. "The Internet has taken that excuse away. It is now physically possible to reach anyone, anywhere on the globe-and what's more, to prove that you are doing it."

A Matter of Trust

Recent events have taught a painful lesson on the value of a company's reputation. "The only way to build a solid and enduring reputation is to demonstrate over time that you do the right thing," says Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN. He points out that this requires companies to embrace not just the rules but the intent behind them.

"If you have a rules-based culture, you encourage gamesmanship," Seidman says. "But in the end, embracing the principles behind Sarbanes-Oxley is more important than taking a technocratic approach to the rules themselves."

As a result, leading companies make earning and maintaining the trust of stakeholders a primary goal of their ethics programs. They hold themselves to a higher standard than the minimum acceptable, and they approach new governance requirements not as simply another regulatory burden, but as an opportunity to improve their business processes.

In the long run, such companies will be better prepared to endure harsh public scrutiny, and they may well emerge as the industry's strongest and most successful players.


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