In Business, what is Voluntary Compliance?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2019
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Voluntary compliance is a term that refers to the expectation that businesses will practice what is known as corporate social responsibility, without the need to create laws of regulations that would govern their choices in certain matters. The idea behind this type of compliance is that business owners are willing and able to conduct their operations in a manner that is ethical and likely to earn respect from the general public. When voluntary compliance is present, the need to legislate company actions ceases to exist.

A company that practices voluntary compliance looks beyond the process of generating profits and also considers the impact of the operation on the well-being of the surrounding community. The idea is to structure the operation so that it actually enhances the quality of the community, rather than creating any type of problems or issues within the area. For example, a company practicing voluntary compliance would choose to install equipment that would control emissions of toxins into the air, even if there were no state or federal laws that required the company to do so. The action would take place as a means of generating a positive public image and keeping the community clean and healthy for everyone living in the area.


There is some difference of opinion on just how far businesses will go in order to engage in voluntary compliance. Opponents to the concept sometimes cite instances where businesses engage in activities that are not illegal or necessarily considered unethical by the business community at large, but still pose a moral threat to the community. This type of behavior, according to those who reject the idea of voluntary compliance, proves that the only way to truly protect the interests of citizens is to pass specific laws that leave little doubt as to what companies can and cannot do when it comes to impacting the quality of life in a community.

Supporters of the idea of voluntary compliance also often cite instances where businesses engaged in activities that were in the best interests of the local community, even when there were no laws or regulations in place to compel those activities. This, according to the supporters, demonstrates that when a company does consider the long-term ramifications of its presence within a community, it will take actions that are ethical and moral, as well as legal. For this reason, supporters attest that creating a mass of laws and state-imposed regulations to micromanage every action of businesses is a waste of time as well as public resources, and serves no useful purpose.


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