We had the privilege to host Transparency International (TI) during their one-day visit here in Finland. TI's Managing Director Cobus de Swardt gave a highly inspirational speech about current global trends in anticorruption efforts, and we wanted to take this opportunity to share three key takeaways from his speech:
- The first key message was directed to the Finnish business audience. MD de Swardt embraced Finland for its good reputation and results in the global indexes as one of the least corrupt nations in the world. Over the years, the Finnish business world has gained a valuable competitive advantage by being a reliable and transparent business partner. Due to the changes in the global economy and the requirement for openness, many countries are developing their anti-corruption practices and, thus, what once was our edge may not provide us the same 'good governance dividend' in the upcoming years.
- The second key message was the current shift from government initiatives to civil society and businesses. Previously governments have led the discussion on the anti-corruption policies and agreed international conventions behind closed doors, but today, civil society and businesses require their voices to be heard, and they are the ones pushing forward international development towards less corrupt societies. MD de Swardt encouraged the audience to take a proactive approach in demanding more from governments in the fight against corruption.
- The third key takeaway stemmed from a question from the audience. The global economy provides endless business opportunities, and many such opportunities exist in very risky areas where an open and democratic society is not the status quo. MD de Swardt encouraged the audience to continue their businesses in these risky areas, but recommended paying careful attention to the fundamentals of responsible business conduct. As a practical piece of advice, MD de Swardt recommended that companies in risky areas open up their policies and take concrete action towards fighting corruption and bribery.
MD de Swardt's thoughts raised a lot of questions and comments in the audience. This is not surprising considering that corruption and bribery have a global price tag of 5% of global GDP, which equals USD 2.6 trillion. Corruption is, indeed, a concern to all companies, as 35% of the occupational fraud cases derive from corrupt activities.
Thus, it is clear that corrupt activities cost money and cause unpredictability and inequality. It is equally evident that we in Finland need to continue our race to keep up the reputation capital we have gained over the years as the least corrupt nation and to add our voice to the battle against corruption and bribery.