Re-shaping the role of the General Counsel

What are the ethical challenges facing General Counsels nowadays? What are the new solutions which drive business through in-house legal teams? How do they deal with all stakeholders whilst presenting a positive image to the consumers?

These are the questions Sergio Marini, General Counsel of Fendi answered in the Feb/March edition of Today’s General Counsel. “Ethics have a calculable value for the business” The “in house counsel has a key role” in making ethical behaviour effective in every aspect of the company. As long as companies follow legal and social rules, there is no reason to demonstrate additional social responsibility which does not increase the firm’s profitability. According to Mr Marini, these socially minded activities are:

  • trying to combine being sustainable and efficient through austere control procedures and waste cutting;
  • building a good reputation for the company that has a positive impact on the way it is perceived by the community: good conduct can only improve the reputation of a company, increasing the number of sales;
  • raising the level of control procedures to make companies more in line with the rules (fewer violations committed by a company means less cost in terms of penalties, sanctions and lawsuits);
  • promoting the company image through marketing campaigns, impacting not only customers’ opinions but also on the stakeholders.

Underlining these tasks as crucial challenges the GCs have to deal with, Mr Marini states that stakeholders matter not only for the profits of the company but also for the external company image and sentiment. This kind of approach creates stability and trust between the management team and the board of directors. Indeed, acting ethically avoids tensions, which would have many reasons to exist if staff “found themselves in the moral dilemma of having to choose between safeguarding their positions or acting according to their moral compass” by following rules violated by the company.

Regarding the type of rules to be followed, he brings up an urgent question: whether companies should follow only the ones embodied in laws and regulations or rather include a wide range of societal rules. Of course the latter is the more appropriate choice, to guarantee the respect of social requirements whilst improving the business.

Sergio Marini concludes saying that every in-house lawyer should have full knowledge of “deontological rules” in order to be an appropriate guardian of compliance who also drives business for the company.