Engaging the corporate sector against corruption through social media advocacy?


I haven’t been a very prolific contributor to this blog over the past few weeks, which was at least partly due to the fact that I was travelling. This post will require a bit of background, as it comes round to an idea for the application of social media advocacy very much on the basis of a more traditional look at – in this case – the part of the equation sometimes called the supply side of corruption: corporate bribery.

Among other meetings in the Netherlands, I attended Ethical Corporation‘s 2nd European Anti-corruption summit. What struck me there was how seriously many corporations take corruption as a legal compliance issue without necessarily taking into full view the broader societal implications of corruption and what business can do to help address these. In other words, following the string of latest corporate cases and at least some efforts by government to prosecute these more vigorously – with prominent exceptions – (see TI’s latest progress report on enforcement of the OECD Anti-bribery convention here for details) there is a heightened sense of awareness among big business that the legal risks incurred by corruption are considerable and that at least individually, businesses need to act.

Very few companies however seem to regard anti-corruption as a fundamental corporate responsibility issue yet (though there were a few notable presentations and conversations highlighting the importance of doing just that during the conference). Approaching anti-corruption as a responsibility issue not limited to compliance with the law (while that of course is fundamental) has the potential to not only protect one business from legal harm (a damaged reputation and lost business, jail time for senior management, etc. included) but to benefit society at large by helping to create the environment for sustainable development. Real opportunities exist for example for business to become engaged with collective action approaches against corruption (a good resource on these has been compiled here) that can help move the debate in the compliance and quite a lot more direction.

The reason I am bringing this issue up in the social media context is that beyond the immediate business case for anti-corruption (which needs to be reiterated again and again of course), it would be very helpful if there was a greater sense that stakeholders such as customers, communities in the countries of operation and investors had a better opportunity to firmly reject corrupt business practices and thus could help create additional incentives for business to integrate anti-corruption in their business model. Possibly, social media advocacy techniques are one opportunity to help make that happen. Anti-corruption criteria are already part of the socially responsible investment agenda and have been integrated into the GRI 3 reporting standard. This demonstrates that anti-corruption is becoming an integral part of what is considered part of corporate responsibility. Also, as I’ve tried to illustrate in an earlier post, a number of companies are moving towards increased online engagement of their stakeholders as well as web-based reporting of their responsibility performance, opening additional opportunities for conversations with online audiences. Is this an opportunity to take the social media based fight against corruption a small step further, for example by logging onto one of the corporate blogs listed here and begin to engage corporate bloggers in conversations around corruption and what their business can do to fight it? in its own operations and by working with others to better the environment they’re operating in? At the very least, this could help bring corruption issues to the attention of corporate departments beyond legal and compliance, such as CSR and investor relations. Also it may help to further sensitize investors to these matters. As it will require firm commitment to ethical business practice at all levels of corporate organisations to really change the way business is sought and done, this surely can’t be bad.

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9 Responses to “Engaging the corporate sector against corruption through social media advocacy?”

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