UK Government launches new Business Integrity Hub to support SMEs operating in frontier markets
As the CEO of Downtown in Business (DIB), a membership organisation championing business across the Midlands and North, I see a growing number of ambitious companies capitalising on opportunities in high potential frontier markets across Africa, Asia and Latin America. In the post-Brexit world, these markets will become increasingly important and attractive environments to do business in, but for the unprepared, they can also be a source of business risk, in particular in relation to bribery and corruption.
In my experience the companies that are best positioned to minimise these risks are the ones that have put doing business with integrity at the heart of their business approach from the start. This means having established business integrity policies and practices in place that ensure compliance with the UK Bribery Act and insisting that local partners, agents and distributors adhere to the same high standards. Adopting codes of conduct and ethical policies is a good start but they must be backed up by training and continuous reinforcement, led from the top.
I recognise this isn’t easy particularly for small companies, which lack the necessary resources and know-how, which is why I welcome the UK Government’s new Business Integrity Hub, which is offering a range of integrity guidance and support to small and medium sized businesses operating in frontier markets. Through the Hub, companies can apply for match funded support from a consultant to help with integrity considerations, for example: improving their compliance with the UK Bribery Act, accessing detailed information on corruption risks in specific countries or sectors and how to do due diligence on supply chain partners.
It is becoming increasingly clear that having robust integrity policies in place is rapidly becoming the norm if you want to be able to access commercial opportunities in large company supply chains or access international banking services. Having a reputation for integrity is also essential for building the trust that underpins successful long-term commercial relationships. This trend is only going to accelerate as companies seek out commercial partners who share and demonstrate the same values and commitment to integrity.
Doing business with integrity generates direct business benefits – you can find some great examples here of companies that are gaining commercial advantage by putting integrity at the heart of their business. From reputational gains and more competitive bids, to greater access to multi-national supply chains and longer-term business sustainability – increasingly integrity is a source of comparative advantage. For those wanting to stay ahead of the curve, and no matter what stage of the journey you are at with your business, now is the time to take action and embed integrity into the core of your business.