In its most recent Corruption Perceptions Index (2020), which ranks countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, Transparency International found more than two-thirds of countries around the world fell in the bottom half of the index—scoring 50 or fewer points on a 100-point scale (with 0 indicating a country is highly corrupt and 100 being very clean). Moreover, nearly half of the countries included have been stagnant on the index for almost a decade, showing troubling signs that efforts to combat corruption have stalled.

Time has demonstrated that corruption is not just a local problem: much like a tree, the roots of corruption extend far beyond the origination point, often pushing through the things that stand in its way. This has become even more apparent in the “COVID-19 era,” whereby the governments and activity of some of the world’s most developed countries have been exposed as being less transparent than first thought.

As international organizations sound the alarm and raise awareness around the broader implications of corruption, how can the private sector meaningfully impact efforts to mitigate corruption’s root causes?

Practical Steps to Prevent Corrupt Actors

Governments across the globe have committed to taking steps to address corruption, and the private sector can play a critical part in supporting these efforts. Steps the private sector should take include:

  • Establish a comprehensive risk management framework: Organizations must develop comprehensive safeguards within their own policies and procedures to prevent illicit behavior at the onset.
  • Set the tone from the top: It’s not enough to have a set list of protocols—from the top down, management must clearly demonstrate that illicit behavior will not be tolerated. Regular communication from executives and leadership will help solidify a commitment to anti-corruption.
  • Leverage data and records: Examine data over time to identify anomalies in records that pinpoint possible weak points in policy and procedure, and where things may have gone—or have the potential to go—awry.
  • Create a culture of accountability: If a warning sign or red flag emerges, follow up by seeking additional information, digging into any potential out-of-bounds behavior. Comprehensive and swift follow-up is critical to establishing a culture of accountability.
  • Effective due diligence: Ensure thorough due diligence is conducted to truly know clients and partners, and their usual business profiles. Should activity deviate from the known profile, it should act as a trigger to investigate the purpose and validity of the activity, so that abnormal behavior and red flags are identified promptly.

To drive real change, organizations need to understand their role in combating and safeguarding against corruption. While bad actors and behavior will not be completely eradicated overnight, entities can take steps now to have a deeper impact on tackling corruption.