The modern consumer’s faith in businesses has been shaken. This can be seen in frustration toward Wall Street, oligopolies such as big cable, and the ever-increasing wealth gap between the average citizen and business magnates. The proliferation of data about salaries, policies, and consumer treatment has ensured that corruption in business has sparked outrage among many. Those cynical about the state of business may remark that the prevailing business culture is to promote the bottom line at the cost of everything else.
At the B Team, leaders have worked to counter corruption in business through a counterculture of change. The central maxims of their goals are to shift the current emphasis on short-term profits to long-term growth, including benefits for all people and the planet. Their 2017 Champion’s Retreat in October discussed the need for a “movement of movements” to create a cascade of change.
Through the efforts of leaders and influencers, it is possible to successfully influence consumers and create enterprises that have widespread benefits. The modern startup culture is a great example of this shift in action—many startups approach business not as a way to line their own pockets, but as a way to fix a problem present in society.
It’s also up to these leaders to be hypervigilant, policing themselves and their own businesses despite the loosening of regulations designed to protect consumers. No business exists in a vacuum, and the first step of preventing corruption in a business is to audit any other organizations it works with. If there is suspect activity, it could spell trouble. Sometimes, the risk of working with an unscrupulous business is not worth it.
When cracking down on problematic activity, it behooves any business to adopt a no-tolerance policy. While huge embezzlement schemes make the news more frequently than small-time bribes, starting with small issues is key to ensuring that they do not significantly undermine a business’s activities. Look at all activities, even the ones that seem innocuous, and determine whether they could have been less than benign.
Of course, with this “movement of movements,” spreading knowledge is important. A movement lives and dies by the number of people who believe in it, and starting a culture centered around eliminating corruption is the best way to make an impactful change. A company should not undertake anti-corruption initiatives simply to reduce their liability—they should do it if they feel that it is an important part of their values and business mission.
This starts with employee education. Establish up front that your company does not tolerate corruption, and make the penalties for any sort of transgression explicitly known. Getting a new hire up to speed can be challenging under the best of circumstances, but any training program should impart a thorough understanding of culture and ways to live by it.
There is, of course, no one-size-fits all solution to corruption. Anti-corruption programs, such as those provided by Transparency International, can be useful, but depending on a business, adjustments may need to be made. The worst thing a business can do is become complacent when it comes to monitoring its own activities. Subject your programs to review and collaborate with other leaders to keep your efforts up to date.
Rebuilding faith in business is a long road, but now more than ever, the tools to prevent corruption in business are available to leaders. With efforts such as those at the B Team, companies can join forces to better improve transparency and fight for business initiatives that benefit as many as possible.