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A culture of integrity in business

Since December 2010, the Integrity Initiative has been encouraging enterprises, small and large, to sign a pledge as the first step of a journey toward rebuilding a culture of integrity in the private sector. To date, 1,500 companies have signed the Integrity Pledge. We aim to double this number, or reach at least 5,000 signatories, by the 3rd Integrity Summit in September 2013.

The pledge states:

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We believe that corruption has been one of the biggest impediments to economic growth and prosperity in the Philippines and has been eroding the moral fiber of this society.

As chief executives of established companies in the Philippines, we acknowledge our companies’ responsibility to lead by example in the fight against corruption and to operate our businesses ethically and with integrity.

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While the government has its own initiatives for reducing corruption, we realize that those initiatives cannot succeed without individual and collective commitment from businesses to level the playing field and to build integrity in the business environment.

In view of the foregoing, we pledge the following:

• We will prohibit bribery in any form in all activities under our control and ensure that our charitable and political contributions, business gifts, and sponsorships are transparent and will not be for the purpose of attempting to influence the recipient, whether government or private, into an improper exercise of functions, duties, or judgment.

• We will maintain a Code of Conduct to guide our employees towards ethical and accountable behaviour at all times, and will apply appropriate sanctions for violations of the code.

• We will conduct training programs for our employees to promote integrity, honesty, and accountability in the exercise of their duties and responsibilities and to convey with resolve our company’s commitment to ethical business practices.

• We will implement appropriate internal systems and controls to prevent unethical conduct by our employees, ensure good governance, and institutionalize the values of integrity and accountability in our business.

• We will maintain appropriate financial reporting mechanisms that are accurate and transparent.

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• We will maintain channels by which employees and other stakeholders can raise ethical concerns and report suspicious circumstances in confidence without risk of reprisal, and a designated officer will be tasked with investigating all reports received.

• We will enter into integrity pacts with other businesses and with government agencies when dealing with procedures related to the bidding and procurement of supplies, materials, equipment, and construction.

• We will refrain from engaging in business with parties who have demonstrated unethical business practices.

To ensure collective action among business enterprises to foster ethical, clean, and transparent business transactions in the Philippines, we commit to:

• support a nationwide initiative intended to create fair market conditions, transparency in business transactions, and ensure good corporate governance;

• participate in roundtable discussions, meetings, and fora to identify the key concerns and current problems affecting the private sectors related to integrity and transparency in business transactions;

• share “best practices,” tools, and concepts which are intended to be used by all participating entities to achieve the goals of the nationwide initiative;

• assist and contribute ideas to develop a unified “Business Code of Conduct” acceptable to all participating entities;

• participate in the creation of key measures and control activities intended to ensure transparency, integrity, and ethical business practice;

• support the development of an audit and certification program (including a training program for advisers and auditors) that will offer a toolbox for enterprises to introduce and implement ethical practices in their business processes; and institutionalize the whole process to promote sustainability of the Integrity Initiative.

By sharing the pledge, my hope is that every reader connected in some way to an enterprise will endeavor to have his/her enterprise sign the pledge pronto and become part of a national campaign to build a level playing field for doing business in the country. This is the only sustainable way forward. We cannot allow corruption to limit our country’s vast potential for sustained and inclusive growth.

The pledge is but a first step. After signing, your enterprise will get guidance and support for your integrity journey through the Unified Code of Conduct for Business and an online self-assessment tool that will help you move forward in the right direction. You will be invited to Integrity Fora that help enterprises and employees address ethical issues in top management, sales and marketing, finance and accounting, logistics and procurement, and human resources—areas most prone to corruption. More importantly, within the next two years, a certification system shall be set up to grant enterprises official seals of integrity that shall be recognized by government and the rest of the business community. Our aim is to make the seal of integrity an advantage in winning contracts and opening up more business opportunities.

If your enterprise has already signed, get five others to sign. They may be your suppliers or companies of your relatives or friends. And no one should be afraid to sign as everyone will be allowed to take the journey at their own pace. The important thing is that we will all end up in that same envisioned level playing field.

E-mail [email protected] or visit www.integrityinitiative.com now!

Peter Angelo V. Perfecto is executive director of the Makati Business Club.

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TAGS: column, culture of integrity, Integrity Initiative, Peter Angelo V. Perfecto, private sector
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