This article originally appeared on the Russian International Affairs Council blog.
By Patricia E. Dowden and Philip M. Nichols
What standards should businesses observe in their own countries, or abroad? Businesses now have resources and influence that rival or surpass those of governments and certainly of ordinary people. The choices businesses make can profoundly influence the lives of every person on the planet. Businesses, governments, and people now recognize that businesses must do much more than merely obey the law. Yet discerning and agreeing on globally appropriate rules for business behavior has been a formidable and contentious discussion among business leaders and academics.
While acknowledging all of the contentiousness, we now offer a modest proposal for a unifying global business ethics principle:
A basic duty of every organization is to earn stakeholder trust.
This principle is meant to replace a more familiar but flawed imperative: that the basic duty of each business leader is to “maximize shareholder value.”  Such a duty has never been explicitly written into corporate law, yet is often practiced by CEOs as a way of avoiding dissatisfied shareholders and being replaced by a similarly dissatisfied Board of Directors. But a single-minded focus on profitability – especially very short-term profitability – has serious limitations and risks to the ongoing enterprise; we will explain why earning and maintaining stakeholder trust – including shareholders — can not only serve businesses’ bottom line over time, but also make the market economies where they operate much more sustainable.
Read More at Corporate Compliance Trends…
Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Kenya in a distant 136th place. That low ranking confirms the sentiment often encountered in Nairobi: corruption is widespread in many aspects of life, from bribing a policeman to avoid charges for alleged traffic violations to graft at the highest levels of government, as poignantly described by a British journalist Michela Wrong in her book about Kenyan whistleblower John Githongo, It’s Our Turn to Eat.
Not surprisingly, many segments of the Kenyan society are fed up with the status quo and ready for change. That includes many companies in the private sector that see their growth potential and competitiveness stifled by the highly corrupt environment. Such companies are not waiting for the government to clean up its act and instead are taking the initiative to limit corruption through setting up or strengthening internal compliance procedures.
Without a strong compliance program, many smaller Russian firms could be locked out of lucrative contracts with big multinationals.
By Henry Nelson
In countries with weak rule of law, anti-corruption efforts suffer from a collective action problem: because bribery and corruption are endemic and occur frequently, individual small business owners hesitate to reform because they fear that doing so will reduce their competitiveness.
If a small or medium-sized enterpise (SME) begins to eschew bribery, it might be incapable of securing contracts that require paying a bribe, for example. The threat of short-term loss of business is serious for SMEs and can deter companies from pursuing anti-corruption compliance.
Furthermore, the collective action problem effects the general business environment. Without a strong, coordinated voice on the importance of compliance, corruption continues to be seen as “business as usual” and the consensus continues to be that bribery is a necessary component of conducting business.
This collective action problem is pervasive and continues to pose issues for CIPE and its many global partners. It is difficult to implement reforms when SMEs fear that the reforms will hurt their business.
Earlier this month, CIPE’s Washington office hosted a delegation of CIPE Russia officers and regional CIPE partners for a discussion on value-chain anti-corruption efforts in Russia. The discussion yielded plenty of interesting information on CIPE Russia’s plan to work with regional Russian chambers of commerce in order to educate local SMEs about international anti-corruption laws like the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and UK Bribery Act.