In February, 2021, the Corporate Governance Center (CGC) made history in Armenia with support from CIPE. It launched the first-ever anti-corruption collective action initiative in the country.
From its first days, the Business Integrity Club gained momentum and had membership requests from companies with a strong desire to advocate positive changes in the business environment.
As Narine Melikyan, the director of the CGC, explains:
“Twenty years ago, when the Corporate Governance Center was established, we adopted our unique approach to combat corruption within the private sector through promoting good corporate governance practices and acknowledging that transparency, accountability, and responsibility are the cornerstones of that fight. Staying true to our commitment for two decades, we have continuously focused our efforts on improving Armenia’s corporate governance environment, and currently, under the leadership of the Center and with the support of CIPE, the Business Integrity Club is a reality. It has united efforts of so many enthusiasts and professionals to improve the transparency and accountability of Armenia’s business environment and has been operating in Armenia for already one year.”
The Club is the first anti-corruption collective action initiative of the Armenian business community, which values and follows the principles of integrity.
It unites its members on the issues of corporate governance, with the aim to improve Armenia’s business environment, promote transparency and accountability, assist Armenian businesses in developing a human-based governance system, as well as increase trust towards the country’s economic system and stimulate the inflow of investments by promoting a culture of integrity. To date, the Club has 25 members representing various sectors of Armenian economy.
“The Club will remain committed to the diversity of its members in order to understand and address a wide range of business environment issues,” Melikyan adds.
A successful start
Over the past year, CGC and the Business Integrity Club members, with support from CIPE, have been developing an institutional framework for the Club with the aim of improving the Club’s sustainability and growing its membership. In February 2022, exactly one year after its establishment, the members of the Business Integrity Club approved the Club’s Participation Rules and Participation Fees. Moving forward, members of the Club must not only commit to integrating business integrity and corporate governance standards within their organizations, but also demonstrate that they are taking steps to do so.
Besides establishing policies and fees, in its first year of operation, the Club has managed to initiate a number of educational and coalition-building activities. For instance, for the first time in the business history of Armenia, the Club, jointly with CGC, hosted an international conference on “Modern Trends in Corporate Governance: International Experience and Armenian Reality.” More than 100 people from all over the world attended the event, including the Minister of Economy of Armenia and the Chair of Corruption Prevention Commission of Armenia.
The Business Integrity Club’s discussion on “How to fight against corruption in business relations?” attracted some 30 business representatives from Armenia. Finally, the Presentation of the ISO 37000:2021, Governance of Organizations standard, organized jointly with the National Institute of Standards, brought together more than 50 representatives from the public and private sectors in Armenia.
A survey conducted among the Club’s members earlier this year confirmed that the Club has become a platform where like-minded companies can get peer support, exchange experiences, and overall have a safe and professional forum for discussing sensitive but necessary issues of business ethics and integrity.
CGC and the Club are already receiving recognition from those in and outside of Armenia. In November 2021, CGC and the National Institute of Standards of Armenia signed a Memorandum of Understanding, outlining plans to work together to raise public awareness on the ISO 37000:2021 Governance of Organizations standard.
The Club will play the role of promoting the implementation of ISO standards among Armenian companies. More recently, the Club was included in the Basel Institute on Governance database of 260 global collective action initiatives. This is the beginning of the Club’s international recognition and an important milestone not only for the Business Integrity Club, but for each of its members.
“We are convinced that 2022 will be a productive and interesting year for the Club, during which the impact of the Club on the business environment of Armenia will continue to grow,” as Melikyan says.
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