Ethical principles and guidelines for advisors at Forte Advice & Advice
Advice’s strength is our ability to integrate communication disciplines and create coherent solutions for customers with complex opportunities and challenges. Our ambition is to help our customers succeed by supporting and contributing to an open and democratic society and market, where making a positive contribution to customers, users, stakeholders, and society is paramount – particularly concerning communications.
With such great versatility and ambition, our business must be managed on clear and well-incorporated guidelines to ensure that our advice always meets the highest ethical standards.
Advice’s ethics and standards of advisory conduct build upon the industry organisations’ ethical codes and principles by which we are already governed. The guidelines are grouped into five themes:
We live in a hyper-media-oriented society, where the amount of content, channels and platforms is constantly growing and getting more difficult to navigate. That is why openness, and the dissemination of correct and comprehensive knowledge, is a prerequisite for trust among our customers and their stakeholders, users and customers. Therefore, when it comes to client work, we always ensure that everyone knows whom we represent and that they can trust the content we pass on.
- We always actively and unprompted disclose which client we work for when contacting the media and stakeholders.
- We do our utmost to check that the knowledge we pass on in our solutions is reliable and truthful. We make an active effort to ensure that all knowledge can be easily fact-checked so that recipients can assess the material themselves.
- In our work with business-critical tasks and confidential information, customers must be able to count on our confidentiality. It might even be necessary to limit the information within a small team at Advice and the customer. It is important that the reason for the discretion is legitimate, for example, as a result of personal relationships, product launches or decisive changes. In principle, our methods and solutions must always be able to be explained and defended publicly. Internal confidentiality requirements between employees must never prevent the management from knowing the content of the assignment.
- The behavioural design we develop, especially in digital solutions and campaigns, must give the recipient the opportunity to make an informed choice.
We make a living by selling our experience from the industries within which we advise. However, personal relations with former or current clients can become so extensive that it raises doubt about our impartiality and ability only to represent the individual client. In such situations, we will either refrain from representing one of the involved parties or get the customers’ input on how Advice can possibly work for others within the same market or agenda.
- Advice cannot simultaneously represent two directly opposing interests in a case or on the market. By directly opposing interests, we mean actors or companies that fight on opposite sides of the same issue or compete in the same product area for identical customers.
- The only exception to this principle is if it is expressly agreed in advance and documented by both customers how this situation is handled. If necessary, the work will be done by separate teams.
- The rule for conflict of interests also applies historically so that current business-critical knowledge gained by advising one customer does not flow to another competing customer.
- We take responsibility for continuously assessing whether our legal capacity has been maintained. If our competence could be called into question, we will actively contact the customers concerned and find out which adjustments we should make.
- Advice wants to provide the best advice to our customers. Therefore, in each case, employees must professionally and personally represent the customer without any reservations. This point implies that as an employee, you can and must say no to working for a customer/case for which you cannot vouch.
- By continuously monitoring our security level, developing our systems, and training our employees, we do our utmost to protect customer and personal data to minimise the risk of technical breakdowns, leaks and hacking.
- We may not provide decision-makers with any personal financial incentives to promote a cause or make a particular decision.
- Receiving gifts or benefits from suppliers, customers or others in excess of a trivial limit of DKK 500 requires prior acceptance from our Risk Manager.
3. KNOWLEDGE OF LAWS AND RULES
In our profession, it is important to know the rules for marketing, protection of interests, publicity legislation, etc., just as there may be retail legislation that we must know and comply with in order to provide safe and competent advice. As a company, we are responsible for training our employees on the rules. At the same time, the individual has a responsibility to speak up if there is any suspicion that the rules are being broken, and explicitly inform the customer about which legislation Advice knows of and which we don’t:
- We are obligated to inform ourselves about rules and legislation affecting our professional field. This point applies, for example, to general rules within lobbying, the press, marketing and personal data.
- In relation to specific rules and retail legislation in the customer’s field, Advice has a duty to take the initiative to discover, together with the customer, which conditions are important for the performance of our work for the customer. If specific legislation is important for the solution of the task, it must be explicitly agreed on who is responsible for checking whether our deliverables and advice comply with the rules.
- Any employee who has doubts about legislation or ethics in a specific matter must raise this concern with his manager. Any ethical dilemmas must be submitted to our Risk Manager. Employees and customers who want anonymity can use our whistle-blower scheme to report ethical and/or other issues.
- If we become aware that the customer is in breach of applicable legislation, this issue must be discussed with Advice’s management, and the customer must be contacted with an intent to either make the circumstance legal or report it to the relevant authorities.
4. GOOD CONSULTING PRACTICE
Our employees must live up to good advisory practice, be open about risks, and maintain an objective tone of voice so that we always appear professional to our customers:
- Advice’s employees must use a professional tone internally, cooperating with the customer and external stakeholders. For example, Advice must be able to see the matter from several angles and maintain a sober and external view of the task.
- Everything we write – and communicate within a project – must be able to withstand being read by outsiders without misinterpretation or misunderstanding. We refrain from prejudiced and irrelevant comments.
- We keep what we promise and speak up when we are challenged on deadlines and professional solutions to which we cannot live up. We insist on advising the customer honestly and respectfully so that the customer has no doubts about our professional advice.
- We want to be perceived as team players who create shared ownership of the tasks. We recognise other people for their achievements and give direct feedback on good and less good performances.
- Regarding our behaviour, we want to be role models in our industry. We want to be perceived as professional, reasoned and proper. We refer to our colleagues in the industry as loyal as we want them to refer to us.
- We do not operate on ‘no cure, no pay’ principles that could undermine our independence, ethics, or principles of good counselling behaviour.
- We only use performance-based remuneration as an exception. If performance remuneration represents a value in excess of 10 % of the project sum, it must be approved by the Risk Manager.
- In order to avoid sub-optimisation or the risk of individual employees compromising the ethical guidelines, no employees in Advice receive individual performance-based remuneration based on sales or turnover.
- We never undertake tasks that we do not believe we are professionally competent to carry out. In that case, we refer you to another supplier.
5. INTERNAL PROCEDURES
To ensure compliance with the above guidelines, we have introduced several internal procedures:
- Advice’s management is responsible for ensuring that employees know and apply the guidelines. This compliance is ensured through ongoing training in the principles, dilemma exercises and the quality assurance of the employees’ work and ongoing, open dialogue.
- New employees must be trained to use the principles actively in their daily life within the first six months of their employment.
- All new customer relationships must undergo an ethics, risks and competence assessment according to a fixed procedure. This assessment must be documented in writing. All existing customers are assessed at least once every two years. The Client Manager must repeat the assessment if the customer relationship changes along the way.
- We have appointed a Risk Manager who acts as an independent party to make decisions on matters of ethics and risk. If necessary, the Risk Manager can set up a working group or involve the management and board of directors in the assessment.
- When we use subcontractors or freelancers, we enter into a written agreement describing their and our responsibilities, including their duty to comply with our professional and ethical guidelines. If we do not have the opportunity to carry out professional quality assurance of the subcontractor’s work, we must make our customer aware of this situation.
- A whistle-blower scheme is established so employees, customers, and others can report unethical behaviour anonymously. Incoming inquiries are handled by the Risk Manager with reporting to the board.
Enacted by the management and the board of directors in May 2019.
Please contact our whistleblower if you experience any advisory behaviour that goes against our guidelines.