Making integrity everyone’s business
The battle to end corruption in the country is far from over, considering recent developments that show how deeply rooted the problem is in our system. Nevertheless, significant progress has been made, both by the government in its good governance reforms and by the business community through its ongoing Integrity Initiative.
In 2010, the Makati Business Club (MBC) and European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) put together a proposal for the $100-million Siemens Integrity Initiative fund which aims to support organizations and projects fighting corruption and fraud through collective action, education and training. The approved proposal was dubbed Project SHINE, the acronym for the project’s main objective of Strengthening High-level commitment for Integrity initiatives and Nurturing collective action of Enterprises advocating fair market conditions. The project’s ultimate target is a certification and accreditation system—like the ISO—that will provide competitive advantages to companies that practice ethical ways of doing business and implement strict integrity standards.
Today, over 1,800 companies have signed the Integrity Pledge, signifying the start of each one’s integrity journey. As many as 120 business organizations are part of an Integrity Consortium, where they have committed to encourage their members to join the initiative. Furthermore, three major summits have been convened and 17 forums, reaching 1,118 individuals belonging to 493 companies nationwide, have been held. As a followup to signing the Integrity Pledge, companies are conducting online self-assessments of their integrity practices and undergoing validation procedures of their results with third parties.
Now, with Integrity Initiative Inc. formally established, the government has agreed to form a public-private technical working group to develop a framework and corresponding policies aimed at rewarding ethical behavior in companies. The goal is to make the practice of integrity a competitive advantage to doing business—not bribery, tax evasion, smuggling, or abuse of labor and the environment. Ultimately, this will improve the bottom line for companies as budgets for “facilitation” become unnecessary.
Regarding the promotion of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption being spearheaded by the Office of the Ombudsman, the government has invited Integrity Initiative to become a partner in pushing for greater private-sector engagement, as provided for in the convention. At the same time, cognizant of the private sector’s role in promoting good governance, the Aquino administration has made Integrity Initiative a part of the Open Governance Partnership (OGP) program.
Launched in 2011, OGP provides an international platform for domestic reformers aiming to make their governments more open, accountable and responsive to citizens. From an initial eight, there are now 62 participating countries, with their respective governments and civil societies committing to work together to develop and implement ambitious reforms. Integrity Initiative is part of the Philippines’ OGP Steering Committee, and it intends to work with the rest of civil society in pushing for a more strategic and aggressive action plan.
A fairly recent development is the commitment of support from Catholic Church leaders, particularly Cardinal Chito Tagle and Archbishop Soc Villegas, to rebuild a culture of integrity through integrity circles in parishes and schools and among the laity and the youth. Speaking in Filipino after a recent meeting between Church officials and Integrity Initiative leaders Ramon del Rosario Jr. and Henry Schumacher to discuss the idea of integrity circles, Cardinal Tagle said: “The Filipino culture at present is really needing transformation in the area of integrity… The business people are now looking for ways on how we can develop a culture of integrity to replace the culture of corruption.”
To further boost the campaign, the board of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associates (Cocopea) has signed the Integrity Pledge. It is hoped that a full-blown campaign for integrity in the private-education sector can be launched at the council’s 5th National Congress on Feb. 20 and 21.
Leaders of the sector have acknowledged that even in education, challenges to integrity abound, such as unethical practices in textbook procurement. A campaign by Cocopea will certainly have an enormous impact on nurturing a culture of integrity as it can tap into its huge student populations to help build more integrity circles, generate more discussion on ethical standards in social media, and attract a greater number of volunteers to watch both the government and the private sector.
In 2010, the MBC and ECCP embarked on a truly ambitious project. The initial efforts were met with much doubt and skepticism. Many companies, especially small and medium enterprises, felt that signing the Integrity Pledge and committing to ethical practices would put them at a disadvantage in doing business. Today, however, we are more optimistic because the 1,800 companies and 120 associations, as well as the Catholic Church and the private schools, are quickly becoming the solid foundations needed for a culture of integrity.
There is a long way to go but we have made progress since 2010. Has your company, association or school signed up with the Integrity Initiative? Find out more at www.integrityinitiative.com. Commit today and become part of the solution.
Peter Angelo V. Perfecto is executive director of the Makati Business Club.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.