The Post Group, a private company since 2010, employs 250 000 people 20% of whom work outside France across five continents. The Post has four principle activities: mail, package and express delivery, banking and digital services. In 2016, annual turnover reached 23.3 billion euros.
In April 2011, The Post Group implemented a system of ethical business procedures based on a code of conduct, the administration of an oath by all staff, a secure email-based whistleblowing system, an Ethics Committee, and awareness raising activities (training, communications).
The objective is to foster an ethical climate within and throughout the Group in order to reinforce the confidence of stakeholders including clients, shareholders, partners, staff, etc.). This confidence is synonymous with the improved economic, financial and social efficiency of the company. Additionally, increased confidence impacts positively on the Post’s ranking with financial rating agencies where, as is the case in Europe, 10 to 15% of the total score depends on ethical integrity.
An annual barometer of the ethical climate
Keeping in mind the French saying, “he who doesn’t evaluate, doesn’t progress” the Post Group carries out an annual internal barometer exercise to measure the ethical climate vis-à-vis the staff’s outlook on and comprehension of ethical issues, the degree to which they are interested in such issues, the level of their involvement in ethics in their daily work and the value that a positive ethical environment at work brings to the organization and to them.
The barometer exercise is carried out every year at the same time by a recognized polling organization to ensure that interviewees trust and are comfortable with the process. The interviews take place over the telephone, while staff are at home, to encourage complete frankness in the respondents’ answers. The panel of interviewees is comprised of 500 members of staff from all sectors and categories and includes a sample of managers. The inclusion of managers provides important information from this group which is a minority within the group (1/5) but whose behavior has a significant impact on ethical business practices.
Thus, each year in October, the same 15 questions are asked. The responses of the interviewees allow the Post to measure the organization’s efforts in ethics and to monitor developments. With each barometer, however, a new question is asked related to current events. In 2014, this question centered on the issue of the economic crisis in Europe and whether the crisis had any impact on the ethics policies and if so, how. In 2015, the question involved the recent implementation of the “gifts and invitations” policy while in 2016 and 2017 a query was made on the understanding of corruption and conflicts of interest in order to monitor the roll out of the corruption prevention system.
For the purposes of comparison, the Post Group sponsors a second barometer on ethics. In this instance the survey asks a sampling of 1000 people working for large French companies the same questions that were asked of the Post’s staff.
The Post Group uses this barometer to guide the deployment of its ethics policy considering the results and/or variations revealed by the staff of large French companies. Specifically, the barometer is used to determine the level of awareness of and confidence in the whistleblowing system which is an important indicator in the implementation of the corruption prevention program. It also identifies areas that need an intensified campaign of communication. The Post Group believes that the whistleblowing system is a crucial tool in the Group’s progression. It helps identify ethical shortcomings as well as possible improvements to the system.
In addition, during the launch of different policies like the anti-corruption code of conduct, the results of the barometer allow the Post to see if staff are aware of the three major principles (zero tolerance, everyone concerned, everyone vigilant) and if they have resulted in exchanges on the subject with their manager. Along with the risk assessment, the barometer’s results enable the identification of target areas for reinforcement in awareness or actions plans (branches, subsidiaries, management levels…).
The first question asked of interviewees is whether they personally appreciate the Post’s way of addressing the issues of ethics in business and if, over the past two years, they have observed an evolution, and, if so, if what way. Finally, they are asked if they are aware of the actions taken by the Post to improve the ethical climate.
They are then questioned as to whether they feel concerned by the actions in question, if they think their company conducts business ethically and if they agree with a particular ethical stance. They are asked what they think motivated the ethical action plans of the Post; to improve client confidence, to improve financial results, to be a company for which people want to work? to avoid legal risk? Etc.
Staff are asked if, in their opinion, their hierarchical superior, conducts him/herself ethically? Their colleagues? If they have themselves witnessed an ethical problem in the work environment and if so how did they respond? Did they mention it to those around them? Who do they trust most for this kind of discussion? The ethics manager? A work colleague? Their manager? A union member? Someone outside the company? Etc. And, more generally, do they think that the company can deal with ethical shortcomings completely, more or less, not really, or not at all?
Finally, staff are asked if they are aware of the whistleblowing system at the Post and of the position of Ethics Manager. They are asked if, on a personal level, they would be willing to blow the whistle if they had witnessed an ethical lapse. This question also serves to verify the level of confidence they have in the alert system.
Once determined, these results are analysed, and then cross-referenced with the results of the barometer carried out on the social climate of the company. The results and analyses are then presented to the company’s executive body and finally the board. For the Ethics Manager, the barometer verifies the efficiency (or not) of the actions brought by those who are responsible for the implementation of ethical procedures in the various departments and in the field. And ultimately, the results and analyses refine and enrich the Post’s action plans on integrity in business in order to target more effectively awareness raising activities for staff on ethical issues.
Head of Ethics
La Poste Group (France)