Anti-Corruption in ESD Programmes

Anti-Corruption in Enterprise and Supplier Development programmes.

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Anti-Corruption – does a small business really need it? 

When most people think about Anti-Corruption they picture auditors, lawyers and risk managers walking around with thick files and a red pen.  Is there not enough risk in just surviving the South African business landscape.  Does a small business really need Anti-Corruption?

Many assume that anti-corruption practices only apply to large corporates. But we believe that the ethics and culture of an organisation are embedded from the start and need to be actively worked into the foundations of every business. Other than some of the more obvious reasons to embed Anti-Corruption such as protection from reputational damage, revenue protection, marketing yourself and an ethical company and risk mitigation, there are some other reasons that we have found that also have an impact. 

  • Anti-Corruption develops a deeper and richer sense of purpose with the leadership of the small business
Discussing Anti-Corruption makes the leaders of the organisation consider the trade – offs that come with being actively ethical and the purpose the organisation was intended for.

Thinking about Anti-Corruption means thinking about ethics and the role of the entrepreneur as a leader in the company.  It challenges behavioural norms directly and immediately focuses attention on transparency in dealing with day to day operational matters. 

Being ethical comes with certain trade-offs. It means that decisions will need to be taken that might impact on short term sustainability. Deciding how to act in these moments will require decisive leadership.

  • It makes Business Owners think about their organisation as an Owner rather than an Employee

Working on Anti-Corruption makes entrepreneurs think through the implication of having multiple employees over which they do not exert direct influence and control.  It envisions the future of the company and makes entrepreneurs think about what the company should aspire to be.

This allows the business owner to think through their business from a systems management point of view rather than an operational point of view.

  • Empowering the company to become active in combating corruption

In an average training session with 20 Entrepreneurs there will at least be 5 – 10 Entrepreneurs who have been approached with a bribe or some form of unethical behaviour.  Anti-Corruption practices create an active defensive position and helps Entrepreneurs to know how to defend and address corruption.  It changes the victim mentality and empowers small companies with the right level of protection.

  • It builds a sense of community within the company

Anti-Corruption allows the organisation to start discussing their future together, how they will act together and what they will do as an organisation when confronted with fraud or corruption.  It unites a company around a shared sense of ethics and builds towards a common purpose.

Discussing ethics creates a shared sense of identity in the company.
  • It articulates a vague sense of justice and moves it into active behaviour
Helping articulate corrupt practices provides the organisation with a handle through which it can be managed.

Corruption in South Africa is a reality.  As a small business your company will be faced with it.  Most entrepreneurs have a vague understanding of injustice related to corruption.  Being able to articulate and identify the injustice provides a handle on how to address it.  It empowers the company with a shared vocabulary and enables the identification and defensive behaviour towards it. 

Anti-Corruption practices make a company stronger, yet most Enterprise and Supplier Development practitioners view it as unnecessary or something that is only required for large organisations.  Is it time that we confront this perception?  Can a start-up business in a country with a corruption rating of 43/100 afford not to have Anti-Corruption practices in place?

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