Here’s something we don’t talk about often enough: bribery isn’t just against the law. There’s a larger issue at stake. Bribery hurts people. It’s the root of income inequality in many countries and keeps entire continents down.
When we talk about bribery in business, we tend to focus on the legal risk because that’s what feels the most important to us and to our companies. We want to help our organizations avoid fines and hits to our reputation. And we definitely don’t want to see anyone go to jail. But, we often fail to consider that the societies where bribery is common are often rife with day-to-day challenges.
I once moderated a panel on which one of the participants explained that, in her home country, corruption is rampant and affects citizens’ lives in very real and profound ways. There, a police officer stations himself on the only road to her family home. She and her family members have no choice but to pay the “small fee” the police officer charges each day just to let them pass.
Tragically, just last month, there was a massive fire that killed scores of people in Bangladesh. Many people blame that tragedy on a tradition of corruption and greed, as so many companies simply pay off police and fire inspectors, leaving employees and other citizens at great risk.
Global companies have a choice: Participate in a culture of bribery or resist it. If enough companies resist, it sends a message—to the local authorities, to the government, to the power structure as a whole. While this won’t wipe out bribery overnight, it will cause “a little interruption to the chain of corruption.”
Different people are motivated by different things. Many of our employees will be open to a new kind of message about bribery. And viewing corruption through a lens of human rights and social justice just might motivate all of us to do better.
In that spirit, we are pleased to announce our newest collaboration with Gary Turk: “Bribery: We All Pay.”