Governments, business, civil society and individual citizens are highly interconnected and interdependent. As a result a company’s actions and its interaction with its stakeholders, both internal and external, are potentially more significant than ever before. AECI is no exception and the need to balance diverse stakeholders’ expectations shapes the way the Group conducts its business. In an environment of increasingly empowered communities and individuals, social activism and a trust deficit, transparency and accountability are non-negotiable.
An ethical culture is fundamental to driving long-term business value and stakeholders’ support of business. To embed such a culture more strongly AECI formalised its Code of Ethics and Business Conduct (“the Code”) several years ago and training on the Code and its application continues across the Group.
The Code was revised in 2018 to incorporate emerging best practices and alignment with the UK Bribery and Foreign Corrupt Practices Acts. The revision will be submitted for Board approval in 2019. It will be rolled out as the new standard of operation across the Group thereafter. A copy of the current Code is available at here.
Owing to the difficult prevailing economic climate in South Africa and in certain other countries, the Board, via its Audit and Risk Committees, is cognisant that ethics-related risks like conflict of interests, bribery and corruption remain. The Group's ethical risk mitigation processes include a whistle-blowing service, management reports and the like. Education and communication relevant to these risks are a cornerstone of preventative processes.
The whistle-blowing service, Tip-offs Anonymous, is managed by an independent third party and serves as a primary tool utilised by employees in diverse countries of operation to register concerns regarding non-compliance with policies, fraud and other matters relating to acceptable business conduct.
In 2018, the reports received were investigated by the Internal Audit function and shared with the Board. Issues related mainly to:
Corrective measures included retraining on the principles and requirements of the Code and disciplinary action was taken where necessary. This included dismissal where the circumstances so warranted.
On an annual basis, as required by the Code, Group employees who have outside interests are required to declare them. Employees are also encouraged to declare any gifts that they may have accepted or given above a stated monetary value equivalent, further underpinning the Group's ethos of doing business ethically.