Promoting a culture of compliance to ensure adherence to legal regulations and internal codes of conduct

What do we mean by this?

Compliance, by definition, is the act of conforming to rules, but is broadly understood to include not only conforming to legal regulations, but also adhering to codes of conduct to which an organisation has voluntarily committed itself, for example "ethical guidelines" or internal "privacy policies".

Compliance management is intended to protect the organisation from risks, liability damage, and loss of reputation while in turn helping to prevent any negative impacts of the organisation on society, the economy, or the environment. A systematic compliance management system defines the rules to be observed, analyses and evaluates the risk of rule violations, and introduces measures to avoid rule violations. According to ISO 19600, compliance management should also observe the principles of good governance, proportionality, transparency, flexibility, and sustainability (in the sense of permanently establishing a compliance culture). The objective is to anchor a compliance culture broadly in the consciousness of all employees.  

Compliance in science organisations concerns scientists and non-scientific employees alike. Types of misconduct can include gaining a personal advantage by accepting or offering monetary benefits, misusing public funds, or violating data protection, patent law, customs, or export control regulations – to name only a few examples.

Rather than a comprehensive compliance management system, some research organisations have essential compliance elements in place, such as internal auditing, budget controlling, or data protection officers.

How could a research organisation implement this?

  • Develop internal regulations such as codes of conduct, process descriptions, and instructions for action (e.g. IT policy, procurement principles, or corruption prevention guidelines)
  • Teach and communicate to make employees aware of compliance requirements and observe them in their daily work
  • Provide consultation opportunities as well as internal and external complaint mechanisms (e.g. crisis or counselling services, telephone hotlines, or ombudspersons)
  • Monitor the compliance system during normal operations and internal audits

Practical examples

Code of Conduct of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

To provide fundamental guidance for employees, Fraunhofer has published a Code of Conduct which describes the desirable conduct of employees in specific situations and contexts.

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Animal welfare in the Leibniz Association

The promotion of compliance with legal regulations and voluntary commitments (e.g. dual use, animal welfare, research ethics, etc.) are developed in temporary working groups with the participation of relevant experts from the institutes and passed in the General Assembly. On the subject of animal experiments, the Leibniz Association's Executive Board has appointed an Executive Board Representative for Animal Welfare.

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Further information

ISO 19600 Compliance Management Systems

Sustainability reporting

DNK criteria

  • 20 Conduct that Complies with the Law and Policy

GRI standard disclosures

  • G4-56–58
  • G4-SO3–8