By Chris Miller, Communications Intern
“To me, success means having a great culture. Great culture is an intangible created through a system of tangibles. These intangibles, ranging from the rhetoric of the upper management to the way entry-level employees are treated, separate good companies from great companies,” said Kellye Gordon, senior director of ethics and compliance at VF Corporation.
Gordon came to the School of Business October 10th for a talk focused on the importance of integrity in the modern business world. More than 75 students, faculty, and staff gathered in Broyhill Auditorium for the event, sponsored by the School’s BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism.
Gordon faces the challenge of translating complex company policies into everyday action for over 60,000 employees at VF Corporation. Headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina, VF is a major apparel and footwear company with an annual revenue of over 12 billion dollars and more than 30 major brands including Jansport, North Face, and Vans. Despite their size and international purview, Gordon said focuses on ensuring that each individual is aware of the company’s values and vision. Gordon refers to VF’s ethical approach as “a process that creates cultural integrity and inclusion, and she shared that VF Corporation was recently recognized as a 2017 World’s Most Ethical CompanyⓇ by the Ethisphere Institute.
The talk was an armchair discussion of ethics and compliance with Gordon and Bryan Starrett, adjunct professor of the practice at the School. Throughout the conversation, students were encouraged to participate in electronic polls and submit questions for Gordon through a text message survey. These features created an interactive environment where students listened to a conversation between two ethics and compliance specialists while also asking questions of their own.
“Company integrity is imperative to success, yet the definition of integrity can be ambiguous,” Gordon said. “My favorite definition of integrity is the courage to meet the everyday demands of reality. Being ethical means having the courage to speak up for what’s right, and making that commitment to ethics is demanding. You will feel the pressure of the company and shareholders on your shoulders, yet you will know that you are leading them in the right direction.”
Josh Nnaji, a Wake Forest sophomore, said he attended the event because he was curious about how business and ethics coexist. He came away with these insights: “I learned the importance of creating a culture that secures ethics, and a dialogue that facilitates productive criticism. I learned that these are the factors that do justice for your company’s diversity and inclusion.”