Mexico City (Mexico), 22 February 2023 — When it comes to corruption, misconduct in governments typically gets most of the attention – and for good reason. Government corruption undermines the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law, and slowing sustainable development to a crawl.
But corruption in the private sector can also be devastating to economies and wider society. It can undercut fair business competition, lead to inflated costs and poorer quality of services for communities, and even erode human rights and environmental resources.
Unfortunately, corruption in the private sector appears to be a widespread problem, with one World Bank survey demonstrating that up to 51 per cent of all firms in some countries experience at least one bribe payment request per year.
For companies to be able to operate successfully in a business environment in which corruption is not tolerated, it is essential that the next generation of business leaders be educated on the risks of corruption and the international instruments which guide national anti-corruption efforts.
To assist these efforts, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) brought together this week in Mexico City a broad group of international experts and youth to share their experiences and good practices in promoting an ethical culture in the private sector and the ways they are improving business integrity through education.
“Today, we reaffirm a commitment and responsibility that transcends countries, sectors and professions: to unite and exchange ideas, prospects and good practices to promote – in an innovative, sustainable and responsible way – a culture of zero tolerance for corruption,” commented Stacy de la Torre, Head of Programme at UNODC Mexico, during the opening of the forum.
Held under the banner ‘Business Integrity and Education: Empowering Business Leaders of the Ethics of the Future’, the forum is part of UNODC's Global Integrity Education Project. This four-year project, which is funded by the Siemens Integrity Initiative, is being rolled out in Kenya, Mexico and Pakistan. It looks to increase communication and collaboration between private sector and academic stakeholders and ultimately lead to graduates becoming ‘ethics ambassadors’ in their workplaces.
“Academia, the business sector, and youth have to be on board together in achieving business integrity,” noted Kashif M. Rabbani, General Manager of the Nishat Hotel in Pakistan. “It [business integrity] will enhance diversity, innovation and positive change within organizations. It will also help to develop and grow individuals, businesses, and societies in an ethical way.”
To date, the project has reached more than 28,000 students from universities in Kenya, Mexico, and Pakistan through the development and implementation of integrity education programmes in universities and the establishment of ethics training programmes in companies.
"We call on companies to provide students with the opportunity to apply their anti-corruption knowledge to their operations and to continue collaborating with UNODC to form the ethical mindsets of more students in more countries," said Giovanni Gallo, Chief of the Thematic Support Section in UNODC's Corruption and Economic Crime Branch.
This week’s forum brought together business integrity practitioners, sustainability leaders, academia representatives, and youth from the three countries, as well as a number of policymakers and anti-corruption representatives from within Mexico. It was instrumental in collecting successful experiences on how education can promote business integrity. Participants further shared examples of national and international initiatives for youth collaborating with companies to generate solutions against corruption.
These good practices will form part of an upcoming guide that UNODC will make available to universities and companies globally to strengthen anti-corruption education.
The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument. It provides state-of-the-art measures for the public and private sectors to foster accountability, integrity and transparency. To learn more, visit the UNODC Business Integrity Portal and UNODC in Mexico.