- Addressing corruption risks and mainstreaming integrity in business practices will be indispensable to achieving a sustainable future.
- Governance is critical to all aspects of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- The Business-20 (B20) Integrity & Compliance Taskforce has made a significant contribution to the international sustainability agenda over the past decade, from setting priorities to initiating collective action.
- Closer collaboration between the Group of 20 (G20), B20 and other stakeholders is key for making sustainable change happen.
Business leaders from across the world will convene for the B20 Summit in Rome this week to hand over recommendations to the Italian G20 Presidency. At the same time, we are witnessing a paradigm shift in corporate governance driven by the rise of hyper-transparency in modern society. Levels of political and employee activism are rising, as are popular protests about corruption, environmental justice, equity and equality. Increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) and digital technology across all industries has resulted in ethical concerns about issues such as privacy and authenticity. Green growth, climate and social justice imperatives, and the severe economic crisis generated by COVID-19, have all intensified and expanded the various forms of public intervention in economic systems.
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There are a number of global bodies and leading organisations that seek to uphold and promote this growing global focus on the need for sustainable governance, integrity, transparency and anti-corruption. Many of the resulting efforts come together in a broader multilateral process spearheaded by the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group (ACWG) and the B20 Taskforce on Integrity & Compliance. The B20 is an official G20 dialogue forum, comprising more than 1,000 business community delegates from G20 countries. Each year, the country holding the G20 Presidency sets forth its agenda and priorities, which are then reflected by the B20 taskforces.
Drawing on the insights, input and best practices of B20 participants over the past decade, we have taken stock of the evolution of critical issues in the taskforce. This is what we and others within the taskforce believe are important priorities for the decade ahead:
An ongoing retrospective of the integrity agenda
Since its inception in Seoul in 2010, the B20 priorities for fighting corruption, promoting transparency and upholding sustainable governance have evolved. They have ranged from calls and actions to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in the early cycles, to more business-focused recommendations such as calling on G20 governments to incentivise compliance.
Recent efforts to track these developments - for example through the C20 Anti-Corruption Commitments Tracker – as well as newly established online repositories including by UNODC on G20 outputs and developments, and by B20 Collective Action Hub, should be supported by future presidencies.
Boosting links with ESG and the SDGs
The 2021 Italian B20 Presidency has maintained the momentum on these critical topics. The focus this year includes improving efficiency and integrity in public administration through digitization and other means, as well as looking at beneficial ownership transparency and public-private partnerships as a way to enhance compliance.
As detailed in the latest B20 Integrity & Compliance Policy Paper 2021, some of the current Presidency's more important contributions have included:
- Demonstrating the direct links between integrity and compliance priorities on all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular reducing inequality and poverty, promoting peace, justice and strong institutions, supporting sustainable industry, innovation and infrastructure. This paves the way for creating a common advocacy agenda on these topics to mobilise public and private sectors and civil society.
- Advancing proposals to promote sustainable governance and reshaping processes to incorporate environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) objectives into corporate compliance. Some of the practical outcomes of these recommendations focus on monitoring and upholding integrity standards along the supply chains, acting as role models for business contractors and suppliers, developing compliance models and rewarding systems for employees and business partners.
- Introducing Key Performance Indicator (KPIs) to measure current and future B20 policies suggested. This will help future presidencies assess progress or detect shortcomings.
A renewed focus on ESG must factor in risks in the form of corruption and illicit behaviour that affects the entire range of stakeholders - from shareholders and employees, to community members and the planet. Opportunities must also be considered, however, including upholding high ethical standards and promoting transparency and integrity in our governance systems.
Governance also plays an increasingly crucial role – not just as the “G” component, but as a critical enabling factor for the environmental and social elements of ESG. It can help address critical challenges from the climate crisis to human rights abuses.
At the same time, there is also an urgent need for harmonisation and standardisation around ESG matrices to guide corporate action and disclosures. The 2022 Indonesian B20 Presidency should build on momentum to date to create a stronger link between corporate governance, assessment of corruption risks and the overall ESG agenda.
Increasing future uptake of B20 recommendations
B20 Integrity & Compliance Taskforce recommendations have been constructive, innovative and action-oriented over the years, but research has shown that G20 uptake has been limited to select high-level recommendations. This must change, but how?
One factor that has positively influenced the evolution of priority topics on the global integrity agenda is a closer working relationship between B20 Integrity & Compliance Taskforce with the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group. As suggested by a group of B20 Integrity & Compliance Taskforce members, a more strategic and pragmatic alignment of B20 and G20 focus topics must be based on an ongoing dialogue, transparent information sharing, coordination of timelines and follow-through across G20 presidencies. This could contribute to a more impactful B20-G20 engagement process and the implementation of more recommendations, enabling governance to keep pace with the global shift towards hyper-transparency.
What's the World Economic Forum doing about corruption?
It hosts the Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI), the largest global CEO-led anti-corruption initiative.
Realizing that corruption hampers growth and innovation, and increases social inequality, PACI aims to shape the global anti-corruption agenda.
Founded in 2004, it brings together top CEOs, governments and international organizations who develop collective action on corruption, transparency and emerging-marking risks.
PACI uses technology to boost transparency and accountability through its platform, Tech for Integrity.