By Ebrahim Asmal, Executive Head: Claims & Group Sourcing, Santam.
At no point in corporate history have ethics and good corporate governance been more important. With the online marketplace operating across global borders, online reviews and digital word-of-mouth are either building brands or knocking them down. Companies with a strong commitment to doing the right thing are coming out on top.
Santam was recently named best insurer at the 2017/18 SAMBRA Awards. This award was testament that for the last 100 years, we’ve never wavered from our deep commitment to ethics and corporate governance. We believe that high standards, ethics and fairness drive good business and solid partnerships.
It is a given that leadership should be consistent with ‘doing the right thing’ – but it goes far deeper than that. At every level of the organisation, people should hold each other accountable to the values and the standards that are embedded in a group’s culture. This is certainly how we operate at Santam.
Running an organisation ethically takes immense commitment. Embedding ethics and integrity, including building trust are processes that are never complete. It takes ongoing exploration and consideration of new situations, possibilities and requires of us to ask the right questions continually, holding ourselves accountable at all times.
How have we embedded sound ethical behaviour in an organisation? Of course it starts with a strong code of ethics that we live and breathe every day. We hold not only ourselves, but also our partners and suppliers to this code. We equip them with an ethics quick test, which helps guide decision making.
We also ensure that our organisation is focussed on building a sustainable business for the long term. The pursuit of short-term gains negatively impacts the long-term success of a business and can be catastrophic.
Linked to this, a key part of our ethos is driving home the message that we are not only about profit. We are an organisation committed to quality as well as price. We constantly strive to balance these two aspects of our business. Of course, to remain competitive, it is necessary to look for ways to keep costs down – but never at the expense of quality. As Warren Buffet says “price is what you pay, value is what you get”
This year, we were also delighted to win a second SAMBRA award, the green award, for our work in this area. This is perhaps one of the best examples of long-termism. Going green is not the cheapest option. But once the decision is made to place the long-term gain of investing in the sustainability of the earth, above short-term profits, it is well worth it. Any company that is making a difference to the planet for generations to come, is a worthwhile entity. In addition, we have realised bottom line value from initiatives
Building a business that is nimble, highly principled and able to see the big picture is, in our view, the best way to build an ethical, robust organisation capable of weathering whatever storms come its way. And these are the only businesses that will truly thrive as we move into the fourth industrial revolution.