Two of the most well-known names in corporate ethics—the Ethics & Compliance Officers Association and the Ethics Resource Center—are gone, merged and reborn as the Ethics & Compliance Initiative, a new organization that will focus on research and certifying corporate compliance programs.
Pat Harned, long-time president of the Ethics Resource Center and head of both organizations since they consolidated last October, announced the news on Thursday. She said the Ethics & Compliance Initiative will hit on three points:
Benchmarking and research reports, which touches on the ERC’s roots studying corporate compliance & ethics efforts;
Presenting that research “through a community dedicated to meaningful idea exchange,” which presumably will be live and online events;
Education and certification for corporate compliance programs.
Harned could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday, although her announcement did promise more news about the new organization this week. The ECOA’s annual conference also opens in Dallas on March 17. Both the ECOA and the ERC continued to operate their own websites this week as they have since their merger announcement last fall.
The ECOA was the first, and for years the most formidable, organization for corporate ethics officers in the United States. More recently, however, its flagship conference every fall dwindled in attendance as more compliance professionals went to the Society of Corporate Compliance & Ethics’ annual conference instead, tempted by SCCE’s professional certification—a distinction the ECOA never managed to deliver with equal appeal.
The ERC, meanwhile, competed with organizations such as the Corporate Executive Board to publish specialty research on corporate compliance programs.
If the Ethics & Compliance Initiative offers to certify a company’s compliance program—rather than certifying individuals’ compliance skill—then it will somewhat compete with groups like Ethisphere and its annual World’s Most Ethical Companies awards. None of those accolades or certifications, however, will be much more than vanity exercises for corporations unless regulators agree that companies carrying them can receive some sort of credit during misconduct investigations.