A Problem Shared …

Despite concerted efforts to combat corruption by business and governments, bribery still poses a significant risk for international corporations, particularly those operating in some of the more challenging regions of the world. Demands for payments remain commonplace, leaving businesses to wonder if anything has really changed despite their considerable investment in anti-bribery programmes to comply with the rapidly expanding rule book of anti-corruption legislation.

Acting in isolation, a company can be vulnerable: at risk from prosecution by paying up, losing out to the more venal by refusing to do so.

To tackle this, many businesses express the desire for collective action. At our Business Ethics Debates on corruption, senior executives have talked of the benefit of working together to tackle the problem. Greater collaboration, it is repeatedly said, would drive up standards of behaviour, provide a means of sharing information to assist robust due diligence and improve the wider business environment to create a more level playing field.

A number of umbrella hubs have emerged over the years to promote collective action at a macro-level such as the UN Global Compact, the World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) and Transparency International’s Business Principles.

At a micro level, a number of industry initiatives have emerged with varying degrees of success and impact. Often, resolve seems to falter at the final hurdle. In several sectors, codes for collective action have been drawn up, but when companies are required to demonstrate real commitment, enthusiasm wanes and individual organisations start to break away.

One that has succeeded is the Banknote Ethics Initiative (BnEI). Launched in 2013, BnEI set out to promote ethical business practices across the banknote industry, with a focus on the prevention of corruption and on anti-trust compliance, supported by a robust independent audit. Companies within the sector are starting to see accreditation as an endorsement of their good conduct and as such are prepared not only to commit to certain standards, but to put themselves to the test.

As designer of the BnEI scheme and one of its auditors, GoodCorporation was asked to speak at the International Centre for Collective Action Conference run by the Basel Institute’s in June. The Basel Institute is giving renewed emphasis to collective action providing support to companies seeking to engage in collective action either at a global or a local level.  Tools and resources are available on the ICCA website. GoodCorporation can support such initiatives through the development of an audit methodology to test whether the specified standards of behaviour are being met.

Posted by Sally McGeachie – July 2014