Personalised ethical audit : meeting international standards

Such an audit is an approach that assesses your company’s compliance with the ethical principles and rules specific to your sector, country and culture. It allows you to identify your strengths and areas for ethical improvement, as well as the associated risks and opportunities. This process also supports you in developing an action plan to strengthen your ethical culture and improve your overall performance.

What is a personalized ethical audit ?

A personalized ethics audit is an examination designed to assess your organization’s compliance with ethical standards specific to your industry, country and culture. The aim is not only to highlight your strengths and weaknesses from an ethical point of view, but also to identify the associated risks and opportunities for improvement.

This process assists you in developing and implementing a strategic plan to strengthen your ethical culture and, consequently, improve your overall performance.

The particularity of personalized ethical auditing lies in its tailor-made approach, which takes into account the specificities of your company, such as its size, configuration, field of activity, values, stakeholders, objectives and challenges to be met. This allows you to obtain an ethical diagnosis that is accurate and adapted to your context.

The audit is based on well-defined and widely accepted ethical criteria, such as codes of ethics, products quality standards and legislative constraints. It also uses proven analytical methods and tools, such as document review, interviews, surveys, observations and various tests.

It requires the active involvement of the entire organization, including management, employees, managers and partners, thus fostering an inclusive and comprehensive review.

The approach of the personalized ethical audit is generally divided into several phases, which may vary according to the provider and the type of audit chosen : definition of the contours and goals of the audit, data collection and analysis, writing and presentation of the report, establishing and implementing recommendations, and monitoring and evaluating results.

Opting for a personalized ethical audit has many advantages. It verifies compliance with international ethical standards by your company, ensures responsible management vis-à-vis your stakeholders, values your image and reputation, prevents and minimizes ethical conflicts, promotes a positive work environment based on strong values and supports continuous learning and progress.

Why conduct a personalized ethical audit for your company ?

Conducting a personalized ethical audit is much more than a simple legal or regulatory formality. This is an important strategic approach that provides a significant competitive advantage. Such a personalized ethical audit allows you to :

  • Strengthen the trust of your stakeholders : By demonstrating your commitment to international ethical standards and affirming your responsible conduct, you strengthen your credibility and foster long-term quality relationships with your customers, suppliers, investors, employees and society as a whole.
  • Reduce ethical risks : Identify points of vulnerability and ethical risks that your company may face, such as fraud, corruption, conflicts of interest, human rights violations and environmental violations, allows you to implement preventive and corrective measures. These actions help you avoid possible sanctions, whether legal, financial or damaging to your reputation.
  • Improve your overall performance : The audit assesses and improves your ethical practices, which positively affects your economic, social and environmental performance. Thanks to this, you improve the efficiency of your company, the quality of your products or services, your capacity for innovation and the satisfaction of your customers.
  • Enhance your image and reputation : Communicate your ethical commitment and social responsibility distinguishes you from your competitors, attracting new customers, partners and talents. This is a great way to stand out in the market.

Conducting a personalized ethical audit is essential to ensure compliance with international ethical standards by your company and to act responsibly towards your stakeholders. It is also an effective way to minimize ethical risks, optimize your performance and enhance the image and reputation of your company.

Who is the personalized ethical audit for ?

The personalized ethical audit is intended for all entities concerned with evaluating and optimizing their ethical standards and practices, regardless of their size, sector of activity, geographical location or culture. This service is particularly beneficial for organizations that :

  • Assume social and environmental responsibility : This audit allows entities to ensure that they respect human rights, sustainable development principles, international conventions and local legislation related to social and environmental responsibility. It also gives them the opportunity to prove their commitment and their significant contribution to society and the environment.
  • Are faced with ethical dilemmas or conflicts : Thanks to the personalized ethical audit, organizations can find solutions to complex or ambiguous situations encountered in their activity, including fraud, corruption, conflicts of interest, discrimination, harassment, etc. This also allows them to prevent and manage potential ethical crises that could damage their reputation and the trust placed in them.
  • Want to comply with ethical requirements : This approach helps organizations to follow the ethical standards and rules specific to their industry, country and culture. It also prepares them for external ethical audits conducted by customers, suppliers, investors, regulators, or certification bodies.
  • Aim to stand out from the competition : The personalized ethical audit offers entities a unique opportunity to stand out by valuing their ethical performance and compliance. It encourages the attraction and loyalty of new customers, partners and talents aligned with their values and principles.

The personalized ethical audit is designed for all entities wishing to audit and improve their ethical standards and practices, regardless of their size, industry, location or culture. It particularly meets the needs of organizations committed to a social and environmental responsibility approach, faced with ethical challenges, concerned with compliance with ethical standards, or seeking to differentiate themselves in a competitive environment.

Which organizations offer personalized ethical audits ?

Customized ethical audits can be provided by a variety of entities, each offering varying levels of independence, cost, and recognition depending on your specific needs. Here is an overview of the main types of organizations that can assist you in developing a customized ethical audit :

Consulting and audit firms

Private consulting and audit firms offer tailor-made ethical audit services. Their expertise covers ethics, compliance, standards, and current regulations. They are able to make a personalized ethical diagnosis, develop and implement an action plan, train and sensitize your teams, and communicate the results. In addition, they prepare for external audits and assist in obtaining ethical certifications.

They are distinguished by :

  • A personalized approach, aligned with your context and needs.
  • A multidisciplinary team of experts in various relevant fields.
  • The guarantee of confidentiality and data security.

However, they have disadvantages :

  • The potentially high cost depending on the complexity of the mission.
  • A perception of less independence, being paid by their clients.
  • A possible conflict of interest, especially if they jointly offer consulting and audit services to the same client.

Example : PwC.

Certification bodies

Certification entities, independent and accredited, award ethical certifications to organizations that comply with international ethical standards, after verification by personalized audits. They also offer advice and recommendations to improve ethical practices.

Notable benefits :

  • Their independence and impartiality in evaluation.
  • The issuance of recognized ethical certifications.
  • Easier access to international markets and public tenders.

Potential disadvantages :

  • Costs, variable according to ethical standard and number of audits required.
  • A certain rigidity, imposing predefined standards.
  • Sometimes limited in scope, not covering all aspects of ethics and compliance.

Exemple : Ethicert.

Professional associations

Bringing together professionals from the same sector or function, professional associations promote the interests and values of their members while defending the ethical standards of the profession. They offer personalized ethical audits, training, publications, events and networks for exchanges on professional ethics.

Benefits include :

  • Services adapted to the sector or profession.
  • In-depth expertise and understanding of specific ethical issues.
  • Support and solidarity between members.

The limits include :

  • Costs related to the annual fee and the services offered.
  • A perception of less independence by representing the interests of their members.
  • A risk of conflict of interest in the event of a dual role of representation and audit.

Example : the French Institute of Auditors and Internal Controllers (IFACI).

What are the essential steps to get a personalized ethical audit ?

To obtain a personalized ethical audit, it is essential to follow a meticulous and adapted process, although the process may vary depending on the entity conducting the audit and the specific type of audit in question. However, some steps are crucial and common to all personalized ethical audits.

The key steps for conducting a personalized ethical audit are :

1. Define audit scope and objectives

The first step is to determine the scope and goals of the personalized ethical audit. This includes specifying the areas, activities, processes, functions, stakeholders and indicators that will be evaluated. It is also essential to clarify the expectations, needs, challenges and expected results of the audit.

This moment requires a discussion between the client organization and the audit organization, thus ensuring that the personalized ethical audit is perfectly aligned with the unique needs of the organization and adapted to its own context.

2. Collect and analyze data

The second phase involves the collection and analysis of data related to the ethical performance and compliance of the organization. This means gathering relevant and reliable information to assess the level of compliance with ethical standards and established criteria.

It is also a matter of analysing this data using appropriate methods and tools such as document analysis, interviews, questionnaires, observations and tests. Active collaboration at all levels of the organisation, from management to employees, managers and partners, is essential.

3. Prepare and submit audit report

The third step is the preparation and presentation of the personalized ethical audit report. It consists of synthesizing the results, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the organization from an ethical point of view, as well as the associated risks and opportunities. It also includes the development of recommendations and improvement plans aligned with the organization’s objectives and priorities.

Open and transparent communication is essential between the organization and the auditor to ensure that the audit report is well understood and accepted by all parties involved.

4. Develop and implement an action plan

The final step is the development and implementation of a plan to improve the ethical performance and compliance of the organization. This step includes the definition of concrete measures and corrective actions to remedy the deficiencies and minimize the ethical risks identified during the audit.

In addition, it is necessary to determine responsibilities, allocate the necessary resources, set deadlines and performance indicators for the monitoring of each action. The commitment and active participation of the organization is essential to ensure the effective implementation and compliance with the action plan.

5. Monitor and evaluate results

The fifth step involves monitoring and evaluating the impacts of the actions deployed following your personalized ethics audit. This phase is crucial to measure the effectiveness of these actions based on previously defined indicators. It also confirms whether the specific objectives of the ethics audit have been achieved and whether the established ethical criteria and standards have been met.

This process requires constant review and updating by the audit organization and entity. The objective is to ensure the sustainability and continuous improvement of the personalized ethical audit.

How much does a personalized ethical audit cost ?

The price of a personalized ethical audit is influenced by various factors, such as the scope of the work, its duration, its complexity, the type of audit chosen and the entity conducting the audit. Contrary to what some might think, there is no fixed or standard rate for this type of service. Nevertheless, it is plausible to determine a cost estimate on the basis of specific criteria.

Below are the main elements that can affect the price of a personalized ethical audit :

  • Audit scope : This relates to the volume and variety of areas, activities, processes, roles, stakeholders and criteria assessed. A larger scope means a higher cost, resulting from an increased need for time, resources and expertise.
  • Audit duration : Refers to the time required to complete all phases of the audit, from defining objectives to evaluating results. A prolonged duration leads to increased costs due to increased expenditure on staff, travel and equipment.
  • The complexity of the audit : It depends on the particular challenges related to the sector of activity, the country, the culture and the ethical standards concerned. Higher complexity requires more specific skills, raising the cost of auditing.
  • The type of audit : The independence, level of recognition and certification of the audit vary according to the entity conducting it. Audits can be internal, external, mandatory, voluntary, compliance, performance, among others, each type impacting the final cost.
  • The audit organization : The entity responsible for the audit, whether a consulting firm, certification body or professional association, influences the cost. This reflects their quality, reliability and reputation.

Several variables such as the scope, duration, complexity, type and driving entity of the personalized ethical audit play a determining role in establishing its cost. Although there is no universal fee schedule, a FasterCapital study estimates the average cost of a personalized ethical audit at a range of 10,000 to 50,000 euros, subject to specific variations.

Is there a renewal to be done regarding the personalized ethical audit ?

Unlike a single action, a personalized ethical audit is a continuous process, essential to ensure compliance with evolving ethical standards. These vary according to legislative, regulatory, societal and technological updates, giving priority to the regular renewal of the audit to ensure alignment and ethical performance.

The need for and frequency of renewal of an ethical audit depends mainly on its nature and the entity responsible for its implementation. This renewal may vary from mandatory to optional, periodic to ad-hoc, and may be comprehensive or focus on certain areas of the initial audit. Examples of these cases include :

For an audit conducted by a specialized firm, renewal is usually optional and carried out at the request of the audited organization or its partners, whether to meet a need or seize an opportunity. This renewal may target the audit in its entirety or specific aspects according to the objectives and needs of the organization.

In the case of audits conducted by certification bodies, renewal is usually required at regular intervals to preserve the validity of the ethical certification, which is granted for a fixed period. Interim audits can be organised to ensure that ethical standards are maintained between two comprehensive assessments.

When the audit is conducted by a professional association, although renewal is advised and carried out periodically, it remains optional. It aims to promote adherence to ethical principles and industry best practices. This renewal may include training activities, publications, and participation in ethics-focused exchange events and networks.

Renewing a personalized ethical audit is possible for an organization concerned with maintaining its commitment to ethics and compliance. This approach makes it possible to integrate innovations in ethical standards and requirements and to update the organization’s ethical assessment and action programme accordingly.