There seems to be a lot of discussions these days about the lack of transparency in business dealings in the Middle East and North Africa. In contrast to the negative news about the state of anti-corruption efforts in the region, I want to point out the positive. In fact, I am seeing businesses in the region serve as role models for other organizations – both public and private – to conduct themselves in an open, transparent and honest manner.
Businesses learn a lot through experience. We all know that in some countries anti-corruption laws are stricter and more far reaching. We also know that in other countries, doing business without paying bribes or making improper payments is harder. Businesses respond to these challenges by developing internal compliance programmes that allow us to continue to thrive in a variety of environments, while at the same time engaging in clean, ethical practices.
Our compliance programmes can serve as lessons for others. By sharing our procedures for resisting extortion and solicitation in international transactions, setting up fair gifts and hospitality guidelines, providing training programs for our employees and conducting effective third-party due diligence, we can lead by example. We can offer suggestions and guidance to others who are new to this area in order to make their journey easier.
Technology can make this process more efficient. By simply posting a corporate code of ethics online, companies are not just informing their stakeholders of their values. They are also sending a clear message on the importance of ethical business practices which can be adopted and implemented by other companies – and the numbers can quickly increase exponentially.
Companies like SABIC and others are engaging on this issue through the World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative. At the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa we will share our experiences – good and bad – with our peers, and provide concrete, practical ways to assist other players in the region so that together we can raise the bar for everyone.
Author: Mohammed H. Al Mady is the Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC).
Image: A man is seen crossing a bridge REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh