This article first appeared on El Libero on November 05, 2015.
It´s unfortunate that every so often in Chile a new “case” related to corporate crimes comes to light. It is easy to give examples: we have been surprised and outraged as a country with the “Farmacias Case”, “La Polar Case”, “Penta-SQM Case” and “Pollos Case”. I could go on with the “Detergents Case” or the “Shipping Case”. And as if that were not enough, now another “case” has been added to our collective imagination: CMPC-SCA, and it is most likely that this will not be the last one and more will continue to be discovered.
But who are the perpetrators, the people who work in the companies, and whose responsibility is it? In this latest “case”, also known as “Comfort Collusion” or “Comfortgate”, one of the companies has already changed owners, and it will be these new administrators who will have to assume a fine for something they bought, apparently, without defects.
Given these events, I think the question we should all ask ourselves is: how can a company prevent its executives from committing crimes in its name?
The first thing that needs to be clarified is that, although the infractions are committed by individuals, those who benefit or are harmed by these practices are the firms. And in the “CMPC-SCA case” we have learned that there were top executives who acted with the full awareness that what they were doing was wrong, going to the implausible and ridiculous limit of throwing computers into the San Carlos Canal.
The answer then to the question posed above is to establish clear protocols and controls to prevent this from happening, since doing nothing ends up making responsible those who were not involved.
The first step is to start with a thorough recruitment and selection process, to make it clear to executives what things cannot be done and what the sanctions are if they do occur. The idea is not to take away the employee’s freedom, but to align him or her with the company’s values.
Executives pass, companies remain… Employers must be aware that they are the most important factor in promoting good practices internally.
By Susana Sierra