In this three-part series, we dive into how integrity is at the heart of the Ethics and Compliance program at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based stc.
stc is a leading Saudi company that offers a variety of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions and digital services in Saudi Arabia and the region. The Company is headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and has over 11,500 employees located across the Kingdom. stc provides its services across several categories, including telecommunication, IT, financial technology, digital media, cybersecurity, and other advanced digital solutions.
When assessing its compliance program, stc’s management realized there was a need to transform the compliance environment they had within the company. Although a program did exist, the emphasis was more on following the rules and when comparing with global companies; it was not a best in class program.
stc’s management desired to develop a program that shifted its focus from pure compliance to integrity and doing the right thing. This would be a program that would eventually result in a culture shift where Ethics and Compliance would be operationalized into the organization and embedded into the company’s DNA.
“We wanted a program that not only ensures we comply with laws and regulations but also elevates our culture of integrity,” says Mathad Al-Ajmi, stc Group Chief Legal & Risk Officer and General Counsel. “An integrity mindset is something we want all our leaders and employees to cultivate and nurture.”
It is with this vision in mind that in 2020, stc commenced its journey to elevate their culture of Integrity with the launch of its new Ethics and Compliance program.
Integrity Takes Us Forward: stc’s Code of Ethics
The foundation of the Ethics and Compliance program is the stc Code of Ethics, entitled “Integrity takes us forward.”
stc’s Corporate Ethics and Compliance (CEC) team developed the Code after undertaking a benchmarking exercise to see what others had and what employees would like to see included. The stc Code of Ethics aims to ensure the Company holds itself and the way it does business, to the highest ethical standards.
“Our Code covers 16 specific and common integrity areas of risk and for each risk area, clear guidance and practical advice is provided to our employees, customers, business partners, suppliers and other stakeholders on how the Company and its representatives should act,” Al-Ajmi says.
The 16 risk areas in stc’s Code of Ethics are categorized under four themes: Customer and Communities, the Marketplace, Investors, and the Workplace. The Code is applicable to senior leadership, including stc’s Board members, and to all stc employees, including those who work in subsidiaries or ventures that are owned either by stc or in which stc exercises effective control over the Company’s management and operations.
“stc’s Ethics and Compliance program aims to foster a culture where more will be done to encourage employees to do the right thing and ensure they feel comfortable reporting unethical behavior without the fear of retaliation,” says Riyadh Muawad, stc Group Chief Business Officer. “The commitment we make to abiding by our Code and towards doing business the right way also provides assurance to our customers and business partners that in every situation, the decisions we take are done so keeping the highest ethical standards in mind.”
In line with best practices, all stc employees are required to acknowledge on an annual basis that they have read, understood and will abide by the stc Code of Ethics.
The Code is available for employees to download internally through stc’s internal online employee platform (the stc HUB) and is also available for public download from the stc website.
Leadership Is at the Heart of the Ethics and Compliance Program
stc’s leadership is committed to elevating the company’s culture of Integrity. This is evident in both words and actions.
When stc launched the program in 2020, the CEC team engaged with leaders first, which included a half-day, in-person Ethical Leadership workshop for senior leadership held shortly before widespread COVID-19 restrictions.
The inaugural and subsequent sessions for stc leaders were conducted taking all precautionary steps such as wearing of masks, distancing attendees and reducing the number of participants to minimum numbers. The sessions were led by the Corporate Ethics and Compliance team and within 2 months of the inaugural session, all of stc’s senior leaders up to director level, completed the half-day Ethical workshop.
“As leaders, we play a vital role in nurturing stc’s culture of integrity and ensuring the effectiveness of our Ethics and Compliance program. If we expect our employees to hold themselves to high ethical standards, it is important that they see us as role models,” says Abdullah Abdulrahman Alkanhl, stc Group Chief Strategy Officer.
The workshop covered the advantages of having an effective compliance program and stressed the important role leaders play in shaping an ethical culture. At the end of the session, leaders wrote down the actions or commitments they would personally take to elevate the culture of Integrity within their organizations. Each leader also received a picture frame for their desk inscribed with the message, “Integrity takes us forward.” Inside the picture frame was an ethical decision tree with the actions or Integrity commitments the leaders came up with during the workshop. This small token has served as a great conversation-starter on the topic of Integrity when guests visit with leadership. It also reminds leadership of their integrity commitments.
Click here for Part 2 of this series.