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Compliance vs. Ethics: our first experiences in Russia

Russia and Compliance

A wise and effective approach to a global compliance-oriented business management seems to be coming from Russian Authorities.

It is a year now since I started my trips to Russia to investigate both the market opportunities for our company in Russia and the viability of exporting our Model and technology in that Country. I think it’s worth sharing with all of you the consciousness we gained of a wise approach which apparently puts ethics in front of compliance.

Of course, Russian companies have many country specific compliance requirements to abide by, EU and US companies have theirs. As such, the mere replication of national country experience when moving or expanding or just trading from Russia to EU or US or vice versa is likely to lead to non-compliance, higher costs and, after all, bad reputation. It is definitely helpful to provide Russian companies’ executives and managers with a thorough and comprehensive overview of the criteria and requirements needed to properly fulfill European and American compliance and reporting obligations, from the very moment those companies enter these markets. Failure to do so may be evidence of non-compliance with the applicable foreign laws. Moreover, dealing with international third parties lacking compliance programs within their organizations may also be viewed as failure to take all possible measures to prevent corruption and other law breaches.

As compliance control systems in foreign countries grow in number and efficacy, Russian companies’ business – either at home or worldwide – depends on whether they can effectively implement similar practices. Compliance control systems reflect a company’s commitment to conduct business responsibly and with integrity, thus drastically reducing its corruption and non-compliance risks. Realising that their own globally oriented compliance control system is essential for development and competitive growth is the very key. On the other side, a new approach to compliance that be not just based upon the traditional laws’ and regulations’ enforcement requires a thorough rethinking of an ethical sensibility, we may say a pro-compliance culture in companies.

Hence our motto:

“If ethics is your attitude, compliance will be your guideline; if it is not, compliance will be a burden”

It means making ethics, rather than only compliance, a fundamental part of the corporate strategy, so that it be not perceived just as the means to avoid sanctions and fines. In the long term it’s easier to gather workers around common-sense values as reputation, image so that they will feel as their own the objective of managing the business responsibly instead of just avoiding sanctions. In other words, a responsible way to manage businesses shall entail undertaking sound and robust compliance programmes, voluntarily implemented by companies to prevent infringements of the applicable laws and to avoid sanctions and fines. But these goals, albeit important, must lie upon an ethical consciousness shared among the entire workforce.

This is the only way to ensure that

 “compliance is not making business harder, it’s making business better”

A mature ethical awareness has to be considered as one of the major pre-conditions for guaranteeing that no law breaches will occur. No control system will effectively work if it is perceived as just a constraint, instead of a powerful help to the workers in pursuing ethics and compliance. With both the objectives of creating a mature global compliance consciousness and incentivating responsibility instead of just enforcing laws and regulations, we have been finding out that Russian authorities seem to be actively engaged in responding to EU and US laws (such as antimoney laundering, financial reporting, antibribery, antimonopoly laws, etc.) following some of their best practices more oriented to incentivating compliance and corporate responsibility than to just “punishing” breaches and violations. The evidence we took from our trips enhances our certainty of how our responsibility and ethics oriented approach to GRC consulting is the right choice to educating companies rather than just providing them with consultancy. 


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