Today is National Compliance Officer Day. To all our members, have a great day of recognition for helping others do the right thing and shaping the ethical culture of your organizations. For the past few weeks ECI has highlighted our members - established CECOs and new CECOs. If you missed any of these conversations visit ECIconnects.
A conversation with and David Childers, Senior Vice President, ECI.
Senior Vice-President & Chief Ethics Officer
David Childers (DC) - Emmanuel, you lead the compliance efforts for a global brand, serve as a board member of ECI and are the recipient of the Carol R. Marshall award for Innovation in Corporate Ethics. All of us at ECI thank you for your commitment, and your leadership in our industry. How did your interest in ethics and compliance as a career develop?
(EL) - My interest in ethics and compliance is long-standing and developed over time. Already as a child, I felt injustice very strongly. As a teenager, I worked with WWII deportees and children of the deportees. It seemed essential that the new generation should not forget and that justice should be rendered, in a rational and not expeditious manner. The strengthening of our moral foundations was at stake.
I had a neighbor who was an African refugee lawyer. One day, he took me to the Paris law courts to see some criminal cases. I was 13 and I decided to be a lawyer. Besides, I could not see what else I could have done.
I then studied law. It was either banal and boring or exciting, depending on the teacher. I was an average student. Fortunately, after I joined a law firm, I was entrusted with complex labor law cases. When L'OREAL sought me out in 1998, to become Human Resources General Counsel, I did not hesitate. My friends thought I would stay a year at most. That was 18 years ago.
...we must celebrate organizations that show the way, support us as a community and help us progress. Ethics is one of the great jobs of the future where it is our duty not to ask for permission.
- Emmanuel Lulin
DC – How did you make the shift at L’OREAL to compliance?
EL - When Jean-Paul Agon became CEO of L'OREAL, he asked me what I wanted to do. I was intrigued, not knowing whether he was simply being polite or if it was a real question. I immediately replied that we should develop our ethics program; make it deeper, more explicit, longer term and more structured. Our conversation lasted a few seconds. 15 days later, I presented him with a vague plan on two slides. He said okay, let’s go. He was the visionary and I was in the fog.
DC – That is fascinating. Be careful what you wish for, but when I look at L’OREAL’s ethics and compliance programs, they are a model for the industry. Why do you love what you do?
I consider my role as one of the most exciting. It requires both analytical and synthetic qualities. When the speed of technological or scientific innovations is greater than the rate of production of the law, then the scope of ethics develops. We are witnessing this phenomenon and hardly a day goes by without some debate on fundamental issues affecting humanity. It is fascinating to oscillate between the daily management of down-to-earth practical issues and deeper long-term reflection. Students' current interest on ethical issues is reassuring. Ethical decision-making has become a managerial skill and it will no doubt be essential for any aspiring leader.
DC – Emmanuel I have had the pleasure to hear you discuss your views on leadership and ethics in our Fellows meetings. What can you tell others about what you have learned?
EL - Ethical risk is a strategic risk. I do not know if we need to reinvent our thinking on ethics, it is probably enough to rediscover it. The main purpose of ethics and compliance is not to avoid legal scandals and risks. That is like looking at the world of tomorrow through the wrong end of a telescope. Also, time has confirmed my latent conviction that human behavior cannot be governed by authority alone. It is more respectful, and more effective, to seek people’s engagement rather than their obedience.
Business and law schools around the world are gradually becoming more interested in ethics. The day parents will want an ethicist in the family will be a day of joy. However, the day when ethicists will bill by the hour will be a day of mourning.
In the meantime, we must celebrate organizations that show the way, support us as a community and help us progress. Ethics is one of the great jobs of the future where it is our duty not to ask for permission.#ECIMemberSpotlight