Corona & Compliance: Jaap van Manen

Blog / News | 30-06-20

Jaap van ManenCoronavirus crisis highlights importance and complexity of compliance

During the coronavirus crisis, there were several things that stood out to Jaap van Manen, Professor of Corporate Governance and partner at Strategic Management Center (SMC), things that illustrate perfectly what makes pursuing the right compliance policy so important and at the same so complex.

Cultural differences

“During the coronavirus crisis, it was interesting to see how different countries, sometimes even neighboring countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium, adopted entirely different approaches to stemming the spread of the virus. While one country went for a total lockdown, the other opted for more specific measures. These different approaches have everything to do with cultural differences between countries. In Panama, the military was sent out into the streets, armed with machine guns, to make sure people stayed indoors. In the Netherlands, the authorities appealed to people’s personal sense of responsibility to stick to the rules. And this approach worked here. I was amazed to see how youngsters made a huge effort to protect the health of vulnerable elderly people. It just goes to show that when you give people that responsibility, they will behave responsibly. In the Netherlands at least.

That said, what works here will not necessarily work elsewhere as well. This is something that multinational companies should always bear in mind. While loose guidelines work well in some countries, they will not be effective in countries where the basic idea is that whatever is not prohibited is permitted. In the latter countries, you need stricter policy. When a company relies too much on people’s sense of responsibility in countries where this is not common practice, it will soon slip up in terms of compliance.”

Here you find the interview with Jurgen Haakmeester (ENGIE) about Compliance & Corona.

Setting the right example

“Another example is the behavior of British political strategist Dominic Cummings. As a special advisor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he helped make the rules for the UK’s coronavirus lockdown. He himself, however, took a rather casual approach to those very rules, as he traveled long distances while he and his family had COVID-19 symptoms. It earned him a barrage of criticism, which was also directed at the government that continued to back him.

This case is a good example of how important it is that you, particularly if you hold a position of power, set the right example. If you, as a company, want your employees to be compliant, you first and foremost have to be compliant yourself. Our King Willem Alexander, for example, set the right example by making it very clear in his speeches that he and his family were also staying home (and didn’t even go out to get their hair cut!). This inspires confidence and encourages people to follow suit.”


Interested in reading more about compliance? Click here to download our Dutch whitepaper about the changing role of the Compliance Officer.