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business urged to ally with NGOs to fight corruption

November 2006

Companies have been urged to make greater efforts to work with non-governmental organizations on tackling corruption in countries with weak governance.

Peter Eigen, head of Transparency International, told the annual conference of the European Business Ethics Network (Eben) in Vienna that companies should not just throw their hands up in despair at the lack of will shown by some governments. ‘Large corporations have to reach where national governments don’t, to create their own enabling environment for ethical business,’ he said.

He told delegates that civil society organizations ‘can act as agents of change’ by creating coalitions with the private sector, but that companies must strengthen NGOs so they have a louder voice in affected countries.

‘Many of these organizations are very weak, but it is worth companies supporting them and helping them to become stronger, because they then become valuable allies,’ he said. ‘There are NGOs that have really grown because they were invited to the table by business – for example, in China, where McKinsey and PricewaterhouseCoopers have helped NGOs progress by lending staff expertise and time.’

On the other hand, NGOs were criticized at the conference for failing to work closely enough with companies on social and environmental issues. Klaus Leisinger, special adviser to the UN Global Compact, said too many took a critical line and offered no solutions. ‘I’m hoping companies get a more differentiated response from NGOs in future,’ he said. ‘They seem very decided on being against the corporate sector.’

One in three international companies believe they have failed to win new business in the past year because their competitors have offered bribes, according to a new survey by Control Risks and Simmons & Simmons.

Companies in the UK can expect a tougher line on corruption from this month as the result of the establishment of a joint Metropolitan Police and City of London investigative team on corporate corruption. The team was set up partly as a result of complaints by Transparency International that Britain has failed to follow up evidence of bribery by UK companies abroad.




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