Ethics, transparency and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), are becoming more and more important in all lines of business and government, and perhaps nowhere are these elements more important than in defence. It is here that people’s lives – and nations – are often at stake, and the level of responsibility is high.
The Norwegian Minister of Defence Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen has been committed from the first day of her tenure to ethics and social responsibility. As she indicated in a speech held in her 100th day in office in January 2006, “I want to see the Armed Forces setting an example of integrity and espousing a culture in which everyone is conscious of their role as responsible members of society… I take this challenge with regard to our reputation, organisational culture and ethics very seriously. I have therefore taken an initiative to produce a plan of action to give added weight to the work on attitudes and leadership.”
Later in that same year, Minister Strøm-Erichsen launched a new directive on ethics, attitudes and management for the entire defence sector in Norway. The directive put into action a renewed emphasis on looking at the way Norwegian Defence conducts it business. The process for guiding the development and implementation of the action plan was entrusted to Ministry of Defence Director General Elisabeth Bødtker Larsen and her staff, including Alvhild Myhre Winje and Hilde Bryhn - who understood that the ultimate success for the programme rested upon the coordination with all branches of Norwegian Defence, including civilian and research organizations.
Bringing Everyone Together
Planning for this important initiative was undertaken knowing full well that the ripple effect of the success of the action plan could positively impact far beyond the Norwegian military, ultimately upon the Norwegian Defence Industry and beyond. The plan developed by the Ministry focused on gaining a better understanding of how the various defence sectors conducted their business, how they interrelated with each other, and externally with the defence industry, media, public and other stakeholders. Through a series of seminars, workshops, interviews, conversations and applied research based on sound organizational development techniques and doctrine, revised goals were agreed upon using the knowledge, skills and support of all levels of the Ministry.
In addition, existing laws and guidelines within Norwegian Defence were in the spotlight, the goal being to achieve the highest level of consistency and professionalism across the board in all organizations. These laws and guidelines included:
•Ethical guidelines for the defence sector
•Armed Forces Procurement Regulations (ARF)
•Ethical Rules for the defence sector
•Ethical Guidelines for the Public Sectors
Other important areas that were addressed included the Civil Service Act, the Act related to military disciplinary authority, the Public Administration Act and the General Civil Penal Code. The ultimate result of the process has been the renewal and revision of policies and supporting routines related to fair competition, an increased understanding of roles and responsibility – and laying the groundwork for the highest level of transparency and ethical activity.
Minister of Defence Strøm-Erichsen put great priority on ethics, attitudes and management within the Norwegian defence sector.
© Per Arne Juvang
Tip of the Iceberg
One concrete result of the process was the development of the guiding document “Ethical Guidelines Regarding Business Contacts for the Defence Sector”. Although absolutely important as a steering document, it represents the “the tip of the iceberg” and it supported by a wide range of activities. According to Director General Larsen, “The long-term success of the Ministry of Defence focus on ethics and corporate social responsibility lies in the ability of all involved to consistently take stock, evaluate and assess how we are doing business. We support this process through a wide range of tools.”
In addition to the Ethical Guidelines, the Ministry of Defence supports the ongoing process with education, training as well as conferences and seminars that include a yearly Dialogue Conference, bringing together not only the top leaders within Norwegian Defence, but a wide range of key employees and personnel from all levels of stakeholder organizations. The goal of this yearly conference is to refresh and renew the dedication and commitment to the highest levels of transparency and ethics through the use of such techniques as dilemma training in order to create social spaces for dialogue.
There are also other projects in the works that include a specific long-term research project that will assess existing attitudes related to gender, diversity and other core elements of organizational behaviour. In order to make training more accessible, the Ministry is currently launching online e-learning courses that are related to dilemma training. In fact, many of the courses and training sessions staged are of such high-quality that participants receive credits eligible to be used towards university degrees.
The Ministry of Defence works closely with all sectors of Norwegian Defence in addition to the Defence Industry here in this country in order to facilitate a “level playing field” in regards to the contract bidding process, choice and follow-up. In addition, the ongoing goals of the focus on ethics is to continue to expand cooperation with other countries and their defence infrastructure in seeking common visions and transparency as the world becomes ever closer together through globalization.
Supporting the process all the way is the Minster of Defence Strøm-Erichsen, who knows that the importance of this area can never be overemphasized. According to the Minister, “In the interest of the defence sector’s reputation in society and the general trust of the population on which we rely, it is essential that these guidelines be complied with.” This ongoing process goes hand in hand with the ongoing activities related to the White Paper entitled “The Armed Forces and industry – strategic partners” that facilitates closer cooperation between the Armed Forces and Norwegian industry (see the separate article in this edition related to this initiative). It is all part of the ongoing process to continue to champion ethics and transparency in the Norwegian Defence environment.
Education is one key to creating social spaces for dialogue.
© Arne Flaaten