Why does Business in Pakistan Need To Build a Culture of Integrity in 2019

“In the end you should always do the right thing even if it’s hard.” – Nicholas Sparks

In November, Carlos Ghosn, the 64-year-old CEO of Nissan Motor Company, was accused of misusing company funds and underreporting his income at Nissan. This was one of many cases of corporate corruption in 2018- which dogged global business all year. It is becoming harder and harder to run a business ethically, it seems.

Each coming year, new business opportunities are identified but these also bring new challenges, especially in  our fast-paced, technologically driven societies where trust is eroding, especially when the regulatory authorities are weak. Transparency International’s report, Exporting Corruption, cited foreign bribery as a key issue in over half of global trade [1], which eventually translates into reduced GDP numbers and greater inequality. The year 2018 also witnessed data breaches, money laundering and cyber theft. For example, Facebook, the most popular social media platform, with 2.27 billion monthly active users [2], was found guilty of a huge data breach and admits it gave tech companies access to users’ personal messages [3]. Vulnerability also prevails in the financial sector –  evident when a €200 billion money laundering case was exposed at Danske Bank`s Estonian branch, which The Guardian quoted as the largest money laundering case in history[4].

How can we assess the resilience of businesses and check their preparedness to avoid these issues in the years to come – has become a key question. . The 2018 Global White Collar Crime Survey[5] revealed that perceptions around the benefits of bribery is still a prevalent issue. 48% of respondents felt that people who pay bribes on behalf of their company are rewarded internally, and/or able to enjoy substantial personal benefit. Of those who indicated this is the case, 64% felt that the employee concerned would be awarded ‘special status’ and 60% indicated they felt promotion would likely follow for helping to meet company targets. It is evident that with increased awareness, customers would prefer companies with good ethics and take stern action when they believe are unethical that depicts purchasing power reduced inclined towards spending money on ethical products: which encompasses a breadth of international labour rights such as working hours, health and safety, freedom of association and wages. To avoid all of these issues, the Nasdaq[6] found that the focus on compliance has grown once again, often playing a pivotal role in a firm’s strategy.

These changes are critically important, according to the global anti-corruption expert and Founder of the Accountability Lab, Blair Glencorse, but he also stresses the needs for shifts in ethics and cultures, not just rules and institutions: “Many of the largest corporate corruption scandals in history have taken place within businesses that had compliance programs and in countries where there are strong laws against corruption” he told me; “The key is building cultures of integrity and pushing meaningfully from the CEO down and the ground-level upwards, for a deep, shared understanding of why being a transparent, ethical company is both good for the bottom-line and good for the societies in which we live”.  To understand these ethical and governance challenges, the Centre for Excellence in Responsible Business (CERB)- an outreach initiative of The Pakistan Business Council- is developing a year-long strategy to conduct research, build programs and report on the gaps that exist within businesses when it comes to integrity. The aim of these activities is to develop an understanding of the knowledge and frameworks that exist within the private sector around ethics and governance- and then host for a for discussion around how to close these gaps. CERB will engage with the private sector by identifying the baseline for current levels of understanding and implementation, followed by practitioner workshops and case studies on companies which have shown to have developed the best practice that others can follow.

[1] https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/exporting-corruption-2018
[2] https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/
[3] https://www.foxbusiness.com/technology/facebook-admits-it-gave-tech-companies-access-to-users-personal-messages
[4] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/sep/21/is-money-laundering-scandal-at-danske-bank-the-largest-in-history
[5] https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/bribery-and-corruption-in-businesses/
[6] https://www.nasdaq.com/article/nasdaq-global-compliance-survey-cm1070801