Corruption – the abuse of power for private gain – distorts markets and stifles economic growth. It debases democracy and leads to lawlessness and societal breakdown. Corruption is a global scourge that has to be tackled, but it must be tackled collectively. Governments, businesses and citizens all have to work together to fight this most intractable of problems. And they are.
The World Economic Forum set up the Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) in 2004. Since then, PACI’s Principles for Countering Bribery have received commitment from CEOs from almost 150 companies with an annual turnover of more than US$ 800 billion. It is encouraging that 79% of businesses agree that they have an ethical duty to fight corruption, according to a survey by Transparency International.
But fighting corruption also makes good business sense because it can:
- Save your business money
- Safeguard and enhance your company’s reputation
- Protect you against fines, penalties and criminal prosecution
- Help your company win new business and attract high-quality staff
- Help your country achieve its economic potential
At a meeting of the Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Anti-Corruption in Los Cabos, Mexico, in 2012, we identified six key policy objectives:
- Encourage transparency in government procurement
- Promote and implement sector-based initiatives
- Engage the private sector in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) peer reviews and consult with the OECD Working Group on Bribery regarding its monitoring mechanism
- Create business programmes, including training, to encourage public-private partnerships focused on capacity building
- Encourage the adoption of business codes of conduct with a specific focus on small and medium-sized enterprises
- Strengthen the anti-corruption legal and regulatory framework
Businesses need to work together with sector partners to share best practice and agree on common principles. But it is also important to demonstrate leadership by implementing effective anti-corruption programmes in their own companies first, setting out clear polices on bribery, kickbacks, fraud and money laundering, for example.
Corruption feeds on opacity and complexity. But technology is helping to shine a light into these dark corners, empowering citizens as well as companies to tackle the problem. High-speed Internet, camera phones and social media networks are enabling citizens to collect and share evidence of corruption.
In India, for example, webcams ensure that teachers show up in rural schools. People can now upload photos of wrongdoing almost in real time. GPS tracking can verify if infrastructure projects are actually happening. Sites like India’s IPaidABribe.com are encouraging people to share stories and speak up, providing evidence that cannot be ignored by the authorities.
In this this new era of transparency, businesses cannot afford to risk their reputations by turning a blind eye to intrinsic corruption in their organizations and throughout their supply chains. These days, wrongdoing will almost certainly be unearthed and exposed by network-connected whistle-blowers and citizens.
So on every level, it makes good business sense to join forces against corruption and take a lead in the fight. Clean, transparent business is good, profitable business. And your customers will reward you for it.