News 10th Oct 2019

With Brexit on the horizon, now more than ever companies must ensure they are doing business without bribery

Rory Donaldson

Programme Manager, Business Integrity

Rory’s work aims to raise corporate anti-corruption standards. He leads project teams working on quantitative benchmarking and analysis, thought leadership and policy development.  He also engages at the senior level with companies to create a dialogue on the company’s priorities for improvement, and regularly chairs industry workshops.  Recent work includes leading a research project into the relationship between successful impact investing outcomes and strong approaches to anti-corruption, and the links between corruption and other ESG factors such as environmental and labour standards.

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Globally, an estimated £1.4 trillion changes hands in bribes every year. The National Crime Agency has warned that Brexit could lead to even more cases of corruption, as UK companies potentially come into greater contact with new markets. The risks presented by trade with higher risk markets affect all UK exporters, large and small.

Bribery is not always straightforward. It is not always easily identifiable, and refusing to participate is not always an easy decision. Bribery can take subtle forms, and can present itself as the only reasonable option when an employee is under pressure or working in an unfamiliar environment. Businesses need to ensure that employees who might face challenging scenarios are properly trained to handle them.

The companies most at risk are likely to be Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which lack the resources of larger businesses. SMEs are often exposed to heightened bribery risks because:

  • They may lack in-house expertise to identify bribery and corruption red flags
  • Without their own in-country network, there is a reliance on third parties (such as agents or intermediaries) to facilitate trade and support their activities – increasing risks of corruption and bribery
  • They may be less likely to be able to resist requests for corrupt payments due to their relative lack of influence compared with multinationals

With Brexit approaching, the UK Government estimates that 400,000 SMEs in Britain have the capability to access new markets by exporting their products and services and is proposing ‘gamechanger’ financial support to encourage them to do so.

Without a high quality anti-corruption programme in place, and effective training to accompany it, companies wishing to expand internationally open themselves up to criminal prosecution, and huge legal costs and fines. Investors too are increasingly looking to ensure that companies have the appropriate corruption safeguards in place.

So what kind of approach to training should a company take? Companies often employ some kind of mass training for the majority of staff, which is likely to be e-learning. Beyond that there are certain employees who are much higher risk because they travel to certain countries or have certain functions in the company – such as sales – and they need much more in-depth face-to-face training. The approach taken will ultimately depend on the risks the businesses is facing.

Transparency International UK provides both face-to-face training and e-training. We recognise that small and medium-sized businesses may not have the budget to organise their own anti-bribery training, so we provide an online training course free of charge. Doing Business Without Bribery demonstrates best practice by giving Transparency International’s view of how to deal with challenging circumstances in a practical way that’s both ethical and realistic.

As anti-corruption experts we explain as simply as possible the principles of anti-bribery without shying away from the fact that employees need to be able to recognise that bribery can be complex and sophisticated. The training is typically completed within 30 minutes, but it has been designed to provide staff with a deep understanding of how they should respond to difficult circumstances in which they might find themselves.

Doing Business Without Bribery is a free online training module to help companies provide in-depth anti-bribery training for staff.