Speaking to Mark, it is clear he is keen to assert that compliance is more than just about following laws, regulations and policies. It’s about doing the right thing.
He says: “Part of being the Compliance Officer means that I’m responsible for driving a compliance programme through the different businesses within Nestlé in the UK and Ireland. I’ve been focusing that plan on driving accountability and making sure that leaders and everyone within the organisation takes responsibility for doing the right thing and that they behave with integrity and ethically.”
For a company that employs almost 8,000 people across 20 sites around the UK and Ireland that’s a big responsibility for one person. So how does he ensure that his important message reaches everyone?
“In terms of engaging employees, I’ve done a few different things. I have set up a number of workshops with the leadership teams of different business units and functions to discuss ethics and compliance. I’m a great believer of having an open discussion around what it means to do the right thing. So rather than me giving advice or direction to employees on what they should be doing, I encourage a discussion where everyone has the capacity to explore and develop this initiative.”
While Mark is very much the driving force behind Nestlé’s compliance agenda, he is keen for everyone across the business to be involved in the process and to get under the skin of what it really means to do the right thing. Not only does he lead, he also listens. He actively encourages employees at all levels to explore what this looks like, in order to create an environment where people feel safe to challenge something they might feel isn’t quite right.
He says: “I think it’s really important to have an open and transparent discussion where people at all levels have input and a say in what is done. What I find is when you start to adopt ideas from throughout the organisation, you start to get much greater engagement than if you just have senior leaders telling people what to do. These workshops have been working pretty well in that respect.”
As well as hosting workshops, Mark has also started a blog which gives employees the opportunity to ask questions and discuss compliance issues. The aim of his blog “is to encourage an open discussion and debate within the organisation.” He launched his blog at the beginning of the year and Mark says that the feedback so far has been “interesting” and cites the comments as “useful intelligence” for developing the broader compliance programme.
He explains: “I think the focus of doing the right thing has resonated with people. I think people are now talking much more about what it is to do the right thing and there is a real discussion happening. For me, it is now just about keeping the momentum going.”
If anyone can keep the momentum going, Mark can. He works closely with his leadership colleagues to ensure that compliance remains high on the agenda. Mark is the principle legal advisor to Nestlé UK and Ireland’s Chief Executive Officer Dame Fiona Kendrick and her senior management team. He heads up the Compliance Committee, a body which comprises key managers including the Chief Executive, the HR Director, the Corporate Communications Director, and the Finance Director. Within this committee, leaders have a role to play in developing the business’ compliance procedures. This devolution of responsibility means that the leadership team are involved in shaping policy within their key areas. For example the head of supply chain is involved in developing anti-bribery initiatives. He explains that by working collaboratively across business functions, colleagues can draw on one another’s expertise in order to deliver results.
“The effect of this sends a very powerful message to the organisation, that it is not just for the lawyers to deal with a particular issue, but actually the business managers play a lead role in these things too and that in itself is a very powerful message.”
As well as getting the wider business to “think more like lawyers,” Mark also stresses the importance for lawyers to “think like business people” as well. He says: “One of the good things about being an in-house lawyer is that you start to understand the drivers of the business and that puts you in a position to be able to shape the business agenda. And that way you can really start to add value to the business.”
His enthusiasm for both his profession and the business world is reflected in his approach and ripples through the company. He says: “Lawyers tend to be good at answering questions, because that is our background. We are there to advise and I think it is good to be able to offer advice but what I would like to move away from is ‘just’ that advisory role. I think it is good to be able to challenge the questions that are being asked of you. I think it is good to ask are these the appropriate questions and then to tell the business about the questions that they should be asking of you.” Day to day this means providing solutions to queries and issues raised by the business, from a legal, compliance, regulatory and reputational perspective. But for Mark himself, no two days are the same. He tells Lawyer Monthly there is no such thing as a “typical day” because his portfolio is so varied.
“My work is focused on driving the strategy of the legal department. This involves managing risk and reputation driving the compliance agenda and advising colleagues on legal matters. Nestlé operates in a competitive market so a lot of what we do day to day is very much relationship focused.”
A good governance structure and joined up ways of working are at the heart of Mark’s strategy for the legal department. “Nestlé is a very complex company with many businesses within the UK. It’s imperative that you have a good structure in place.”
Within his team of 14, each person acts as a business partner for a particular business or function. He explains: “It’s important that they have a close relationship with the business that they work with, so that they can act as an early warning system for any potential issues that might arise and provide proactive as well as reactive advice.”
As well as working closely internally, Mark and his team also have a good relationship with a panel of external law firms. They act as “an extension of the Nestlé team” on certain issues and provide industry advice and support where needed.
What some might see as a challenge, Mark sees as an opportunity. He’s ambitious in his vision, but also pragmatic. “You can’t do everything all at once,” he tells me. “There is so much that you might want to do that you have to prioritise. If you get that bit right, then the rest of it will follow.”
Mark talks a lot about doing the right thing and while it’s clear this is the route of his motivation, Lawyer Monthly is keen to know what he finds most enjoyable about his work. “For me I enjoy leading and coaching the team. I see it as fundamental part of my role. There is a lot of focus on training and development, which I believe is hugely important. I enjoy supporting the team in developing and seeing them grow.” As you would expect for a lawyer, he also points out he enjoys “influencing and persuading” but most crucially he enjoys “driving the culture to do the right thing.”
His influence and drive is most definitely having a positive effect across the business. Employees are regularly commenting on his blog posts, questions are being asked and behaviours are changing. Mark’s vision is clear, but Lawyer Monthly readers will want to know, what does the future look like?
“In the long term, I would like to see us look more externally and see what we can do to understand and influence new laws coming down the line. It’s a tough economic climate out there where people could be tempted to cut corners. I want us to continue to create an environment that is ethical and safe and one that ensures that we are always at the forefront doing the right thing.”