Business heads sign integrity pledge

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Monday, March 4, 2013

IF the private sector expects the government to rid itself of corruption, it too, should be able to do the same.

Yesterday, over 40 chief executive officers and board directors signed a pledge to cooperate with the Integrity Initiative, a private sector-led campaign aimed at strengthening ethical standards in society.

The initiative aspires for a level playing field for business, where ethical and compliant companies enjoy competitive advance in both government and private sector transactions.

The pledge is a commitment to ethical business practices and good corporate governance and is aimed at reducing the cycle of corruption in the country, which they consider an obstruction to the development of a competitive business environment.

Committing to the initiative has no pre-screening requirements, although chief executive officers and heads of organizations are expected to adhere to the provisions of the pledge they signed.

The initiative was started by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and the Makati Business Club in 2009.

Good employees

Project coordinator Edward Gasucana of the Makati Business Club said they appeal to the top level executives to sign the pledge because good governance always starts from the leader of any organization.

He also told those present that companies that practice ethical standards attract good employees, sustain the business with loyal customers and will encourage more partnerships. “Clean business is good business,” he said.

They are planning to have the movement turned into a non-stock, non-profit organization to fully monitor the performance of the signatories and urge government to provide incentives to those companies that are certified with their organization.

He also hopes that one day, the government will remove incentives from companies that have not signed the pledge.

Those who sign the pledge are expected to prohibit all forms of bribery and keep all forms of sponsorship transparent so these will not be seen as attempting to influence the recipient, whether government or private, into improper exercise of functions, duties or judgment.

They are also expected to maintain a code of conduct to guide employees towards ethical and accountable behavior and conduct training programs for employees promoting integrity, honesty and accountability.

Signatories pledge to implement appropriate internal systems and controls to prevent unethical conduct and maintain accurate and transparent financial reporting mechanisms. They are discouraged from engaging in business with parties who have demonstrated unethical business practices.

Those who sign the pledge also commit to support the nationwide initiative intended to create fair market conditions, transparency in business transactions and ensure good corporate governance; participate in discussions to identify key concerns affecting the private sector relating to integrity and transparency in business transactions; share best practices; assist and contribute ideas to develop a unified business code of conduct; participate in the creation of key measures and control activities; and support the development of an audit and certification program that will institutionalize the whole process of promoting sustainability of the Integrity Initiative.

Gacusana said they have adopted a unified code of conduct for business that they deem acceptable to most organizations and are aligned with many international groups such as the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and Transparency International.

It has codes for top management, human resources, sales and marketing, finance and accounting, procurement, and logistics departments.

Getting people on board

Project director Henry Schumacher of the ECCP admitted it will be difficult to get everyone on board the project, saying among the government institutions that have not yet signed the pledge are those from the Bureau of Customs and the House of Senate.

Out of some 600,000 companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Schumacher said they have managed to get 1,700 CEOs and 32 cabinet secretaries to sign up.

Gacusana pointed out that many statements from signatories have been very encouraging, citing Education Secretary Armin Luistro’s statement about not dealing with suppliers who have not signed the pledge. ECCP Cebu Council Chairman Sabino Dapat added that Public Works and Highways Secretary Singson declared that bidders will not be allowed to bid for projects if they have not signed the pledge.

Schumacher said they hope to expand the initiative to businessmen in the Visayas and Mindanao and asked those present to spread the word to their suppliers and business partners to effectively spread the message about clean business practices.

Outgoing Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Prudencio Gesta said getting the top leadership of their organization to sign will be a first step. He expects their members to do the same soon.

“We will start with one. It’s part of the process. When you create movement, you have to start from somewhere,” he told reporters.

Visayas integrity officer Monette Mabanag-Flores was happy about the turnout during yesterday’s signing, saying they were only expecting 30 to attend but instead found 48 in attendance.

Their next activity in Cebu will be to involve government and media institutions in the pledge.

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