In the world of construction industry ethics and compliance, "we have a duty to lead by example," says William G. Dorey, the founding chairman of the Construction Industry Ethics and Compliance Initiative. From its initial 13 founding members, the group has grown this year to 45 contractors and engineers who commit to the highest level of ethical conduct and compliance with the law and encourage the sharing of best practices.

The CEO-driven organization was founded in 2008 with a belief that a culture of ethics and compliance starts at the top. At the time, Dorey was CEO of Granite Construction Inc., where general counsel Michael Futch had created an ethics and compliance program in 1998—10 years before they became mandatory for federal projects over $5 million.

"Having a formal compliance program shows that you are a good corporate citizen," says Futch. Federal prosecutors and suspension officials must take this into consideration if a firm is charged, indicted or found guilty of a violation, he adds.

A formal program is a "great offense" to prevent any possible violations and a "good defense if you do get into trouble," agrees Dorey, now retired as CEO but still on Granite's board of directors. "Mike and I talked about how litigious things had become, how difficult it was to comply and how you had to be perfect—not just good, but perfect," Dorey says.

A preliminary meeting of general counsels led to a formal meeting of the 13 founding CEOs, and those firms continue serve as the group's steering committee. Richard Bednar, the initiative's staff coordinator, calls Dorey the "ignition for the organization who—with a lot of support from Mike Futch—stood out in pushing it forward."

Growth came with the group's second chairman, John Kenny, Kenny Construction CEO, and its current chairman, Bruce Grewcock, Kiewit Corp. CEO. At a best-practices forum in Denver last October, Grewcock said the work they are doing can "elevate the industry" and mitigate the perception that it is corrupt.