13 June 2012
Mexico hosts the 2012 G20 Summit, beginning June 16th and 17th with the B20 (Business 20) Summit, then continuing into the leaders' summit on June 18th and 19th. This article is one of a series examining the issues on the G20's agenda.
Each year the leaders of the G20 countries come together with the aim of addressing the planet’s most challenging issues. This might seem to some as comparable to the story of Sisyphus, pushing time and again a boulder up a steep slope. Indeed, when one reads, at the end of each Summit, the lengthy list of issues the G20 Leaders have addressed or tried to address, one cannot help having a sense of both hope and circumspection. Fortunately, our twenty present-day heroes are smart enough to ask some innovative experts, called Sherpas, to lead them on their adventurous and mountainous trek to the top. In particular, they ask the business community, reunited in the form of the “B20”, to help them clear the obstacles laying on their way. That is the laudable yet challenging role given to us business experts, whose mission it is to level the path leading to those exciting summits.
Integrity in business: a “nice to have” instrument or an essential tool?
Among the many issues the World Leaders will have to examine at Los Cabos (such as climate change, financial crises or the volatility of natural resources prices), there is one which prompts awe: integrity in business. Can such a lofty subject, bordering on ethics and morals, provide the beginning of a solution to the inequities humanity is faced with? Can we hope that ethical business will bring some relief to the problems women and men are struggling with these days? Is business integrity just a “nice to have” instrument or is it an essential tool in world economic management? At the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), we believe that integrity in business is essential. If one still doubts this, the youngsters demonstrating on Tahrir Square can provide all the answers. A sound and efficient market, giving each a chance to succeed and to prosper in an environment free from inappropriate public or private interventions should be our aspiration for transparency and good governance. The fight against corruption, fundamental in this context, should become a reflex in all societies, industrialized, emerging, as well as developing.
Fighting corruption: the same as fighting windmills?
In the aftermath of Watergate, the ICC decided to make the fight against corruption in all its forms one of its priorities. Since then, the world business organization has put in place a number of efficient tools to fight corruption in the political, administrative, and economic environments. Such a titanic fight cannot be done in isolation. Robust and open cooperation with governments, international public organizations, business federations, chambers of commerce, as well as with NGOs is necessary.
Is there “low hanging fruit” to be picked?
Under each G20 presidency, we are urged to present practical proposals, which could be transformed into immediate “deliverables”. We are asked if there is low-hanging fruit that could be easily picked. While concrete measures must always be an aim, what is also needed is long term, systematic planning that will need a succession of G20 Presidencies to be effectively carried out.
What can be achieved in the fight against corruption?
To create a sound economic environment, we need good international conventions and efficient national laws. Let us call that the nomos. To ensure that the nomos does not become legal archeology, we must create awareness with the people in charge (business executives and political decision makers alike). For the sake of ease, we call that the logos. And finally, we must deploy sufficient resources and put into place adequate measures to transform nomos and logos into reality. We call that the praxis. The nomos actually is fine, the logos is growing, but the praxis is still dangerously lagging behind. Companies, large, medium, and small, are not yet convincingly putting into place corporate prevention measures. And that is precisely where our efforts have to be concentrated. It is on the basis of this analysis that the ICC is launching a large scale program to stimulate better training in companies, especially directed towards Compliance Officers.
The B20 anti-corruption plan
In order to focus as much energy as possible on their top priority goals, the B20 anti-corruption Sherpas have identified six priority areas of attention: (i) public procurement, (ii) sector based initiatives, (iii) private sector involvement in peer reviews, (iv) training and education, (v) codes of conduct and compliance programs, especially in SMEs and (vi) solicitation and related issues. On each of these focus areas, experts of a number of organizations and of diverse origins - from the public as well as from the private sector - have been working hard, and with a sense of urgency, to identify the areas with the most immediate need for action. The work to be achieved is daunting but is doable. It requires perseverance, trust and a sense of what we are aiming to achieve in both the immediate and in the long-term.
This article was originally published in the special annual G20-B20 Summit 2012 edition. Published with permission.