Oral Histories

Alan Marks

Interview Segments on Topic: Code of Ethics/Mission Statement/Credo

Alan Marks Biography

Alan Marks is senior vice president of corporate communications for eBay Inc., and is responsible for leading communications strategy for all areas of the company, which includes business and consumer media relations, employee communications, executive positioning and issues and reputation management. Prior to joining eBay, Marks was at Nike Inc., Gap, Inc., and Avon Products. He began his career as a journalist.


INTERVIEWER: Do you think that senior management understands this change—and I’m not talking about at any specific company but in general?

MARKS: Again I think the change is happening right before our eyes and so it depends on what company you’re looking at, what industry you’re looking at. I think everybody is starting to understand how social and how technology is influencing everything. So I don’t see social media, for example, as just a channel. I see social media as an idea, a way we engage with each other that is starting to influence every aspect of our lives and every aspect of our business environment. I think more and more executives are getting that social media is not just Twitter, or let’s throw up a Facebook page. Social media is a way of operating and a way of communicating, because it influences the way we connect with each other and the way we engage with each other. And again, depending on what company you’re looking at or what industry you’re looking at, I would go back to if you look at a company where you say wow, I really respect that company, I respect that brand, I trust that brand, I trust that company, that company seems to be innovating—I think if you looked underneath the hood, those would be companies where the senior leadership team truly does understand the fundamental changes that are going on in the world, and how those fundamental changes are affecting the way we communicate with each other and communicate on a global basis.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think that it is important for a corporation to have an ethical mission statement or a credo? Is that useful?

MARKS: Absolutely. I think a company—you have to define—you have to know who you are. And you have to be able to define that to your stakeholders, and certainly to your employees and to your customers – to all your stakeholders. And that means you need to have a defined ethics statement, you need to have a defined purpose, a set of values, a mission. Getting that down on paper is critically important because it codifies who you are and what you believe in, and what you stand for. In today’s world, where authenticity is so important, you’ve got to be clear about what you believe in and what you stand for, and it creates a road map for the organization. In a very complex business environment, in a very complex global environment, having a clear road map about what we believe in and what we stand for and what we will do and not do, those are important guideposts for employees out there all over the world making decisions everyday in a very complex, very fast changing environment.

INTERVIEWER: Beyond mission statements and credos, should ethics training be provided for corporate staff?

MARKS: I think ethics training should be provided for all employees in a company and it’s an ongoing challenge. We do it on an annual basis. In our company we have online training modules that people are required to go through in a certain defined time period, and there’s a set of materials that are refresher courses. Each year we add new modules to that and we ensure full compliance to that. I think that’s one step of it. You have to make sure employees aren’t just going through the motions of the training but are really internalizing what the training is about, and what the company stands for. And again, today, for a company like Ebay, we operate in a global dynamic, rapidly changing environment. Employees are faced with complex decisions every day, and if they don’t understand what we believe in…what our ethics policies are, what we value, they’re not well equipped to make the right decisions that are consistent with who we are as a company and consistent with our brand and our values.