Statement From Lise Kingo, CEO & Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, on International Anti-Corruption Day

Dec 7, 2018 2:30 PM ET

Corruption continues to be one of the greatest barriers to principled and sustainable business.

Unchecked, corruption can erode the foundations of the just and equitable world envisioned by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres states, “Corruption begets more corruption, and fosters a corrosive culture of impunity.”

Now, as the world marks the 15th annual International Anti-Corruption Day, we at the United Nations Global Compact are reflecting on the role of business in the ongoing fight against corruption.

Next spring, the Tenth Principle of the UN Global Compact against corruption will also turn 15. Derived from the UN Convention against Corruption, our Tenth Principle was adopted on 24 June 2004 with overwhelming support from the business community, a clear sign that companies recognize not only the role that they play, but the long-term benefits to them in rooting out corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.

From legal and reputational risks, to the financial costs of corruption, to the erosion of trust among employees, shareholders and other stakeholders, there is a high risk to businesses that fail to effectively combat corruption. No company, no matter the size or the sector, is immune to corruption, and the potential for damage is considerable.

Corruption adds up to 10 per cent to the total cost of doing business globally, and up to 25 per cent to the cost of procurement contracts in developing countries, according to the OECD. Meanwhile, the IMF reports that the global economy loses close to US $2 trillion per year due to bribery (IMF). It is clear that corruption eats away at the roots of sustainability.

UN Global Compact participants have made encouraging strides in their anti-corruption efforts. Our 2018 Progress Report demonstrates a strong uptick in business action against corruption, with 91 per cent of surveyed companies stating that they have anti-corruption policies and practices in place — a 10 per cent increase since 2008. The anti-corruption principle has shown more progress in the last decade than the other nine principles. Despite this success, we have a long way to go.

To mainstream the implementation of the Tenth Principle and Sustainable Development Goal 16 among business, the UN Global Compact Academy — our new digital learning platform — will host virtual sessions and e-learning courses on anti-corruption. Through our new Action Platform on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, we are working with leading companies to drive global business standards and action to advance Goal 16. And together with Global Compact Local Networks around the world, we have implemented local Collective Action initiatives to ensure that policies translate into practice.

To achieve a truly transparent economy that benefits everyone, the private sector has to move from commitment to action — enforce a zero tolerance policy against corruption, conduct a corruption risk assessment, disclose beneficial ownership, protect whistleblowers and strengthen anti-corruption within the value chain. I call upon the global business community adopt these practices and join hands with us to foster transparency and anti-corruption for creating the world we want.

Leila Puutio
UN Global Compact
+1 (646) 884-7523