Corruption Is Still the Number One Barrier to Sustainable Development

Within the last decade, governing agencies have cracked down on implementing and enforcing anti-bribery and corruption regulations, especially as they affect the progression of sustainability initiatives. Specifically, the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) make it clear that leaders continue to view corruption as a top obstacle to sustainability. How does corruption impact sustainable development directly? Why does it continue to be such a prevalent issue? What can be done to address bribery and move toward sustainable development? Let’s explore the answers to these questions and more.

Corruption and sustainable development

In understanding how corruption directly and severely impacts sustainable development, it’s important first to understand what exactly is meant by “sustainable development.” According to the UN Sustainable Development Agenda, sustainable development “calls for concerted efforts towards building an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future for people and planet.” To achieve sustainable development, a balance must be struck between economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection.

With this understanding of sustainable development in mind, how is corruption a major and direct threat to sustainable development? Corruption leads to weak institutions, creates injustice and insecurity, and deprives people of basic needs such as health care, education, clean water, proper sanitation, and housing. According to the United Nations Development Programme, “Corruption undermines human development. It diverts public resources away from the provision of essential services. It increases inequality and hinders national and local economic development by distorting markets for goods and services. It corrodes rule of law and destroys public trust in governments and leaders.”

Industries impacted by corruption

While sustainability in every industry and sector is affected by corruption and bribery, there are specific industries in which corruption is particularly prevalent.

  • Infrastructure: When lucrative contracts are up for grabs, bribery, fraud, and embezzlement can plague large-scale infrastructure projects. Corruption in this area can lead to stolen money and major structural elements failing to be built or being built in a substandard, dangerous manner.
  • Public health: Corruption in the public health sector leads to the depletion of national health budgets, which reduces Government capacity to provide essential treatments, while magnifying the risk of unsafe or ineffective products on the market.
  • Wildlife crime: Illegal trade, corruption, and bribery in flora and fauna contribute to the rapid extinction of many of the planet’s protected species. Corruption comes into play as traffickers often rely on bribery to move illegally captured plants and animals across international borders.

Corruption, the 2030 Agenda, and the SDGs

Both the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) specifically cite corruption as a major hindrance to sustainability. As stated in the release of the 2030 Agenda, “Sustainable development cannot be realised without peace and security; and peace and security will be at risk without sustainable development… Factors which give rise to violence, insecurity and injustice, such as inequality, corruption, poor governance and illicit financial and arms flows, are addressed in the Agenda.” It is one of the many purposes of the Agenda and the SDGs to perpetuate a culture of anti-bribery and corruption and provide guidelines for entities to take action.

Specifically, SDG 16 targets corruption and bribery, among other elements of accountable organisations and justice systems. The goal of SDG 16.5 is to “Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms.” This Sustainable Development Goal and its targets on reducing bribery, strengthening institutions, and accessing information are not only valuable aspirations in their own right, but they are also vital conditions for the achievement of all 17 goals.

The goal particularly emphasises the prevalence of corruption and bribery in low-income countries. According to the SDGs, bribery is at least five times more likely in low-income countries (37.6%) than in high-income countries (7.2%). Corruption impacts sustainable development in these countries because it is commonplace to be asked to pay bribes to access essential public services related to health care, education, water, electricity, and the justice system. The Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda call on organisations to develop thorough anti-bribery and corruption policies that specifically address proper protocols everywhere they operate, but especially in low-income countries where bribery is prevalent.

Why is corruption so prevalent?

Despite its ethical, legal, social, and environmental consequences, corruption continues to be a major issue around the world, especially in low-income and developing countries. Why is the culture of bribery and corruption perpetuated across the globe?

Governmental pressures

Significant efforts are constantly being made in every government to improve infrastructure, healthcare, justice, and all elements of community development. Government officials are under a lot of pressure to move the needle quickly, often in an unreasonable and unrealistic timeline, placing them in a position to conduct corrupt behaviour, such as accepting or committing bribery.

Financial disparity

In the same way that governments and organisations are under pressure, financial disparity in low-income communities creates monetary pressures for individuals. In low-income countries, bribery is a common method by which individuals gain extra funds to supplement their wages.

Cultural expectations

While Western cultures tend to be primarily rule-based, other cultures have many elements of relationship-based exchanges. Mutual obligation is a significant part of government and transactions in many countries, which includes the commitment of bribery, as well as loyalty to certain parties over others.

Legal regulations

Anti-Bribery and Corruption and ESG regulatory initiatives have been increasingly aggressive, but they have resulted in very few official prosecutions. It is possible that, with a limited amount of legal action taking place after the enactment of new regulations, organisations and governments may struggle to take the legal ramifications of corrupt actions seriously. The UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) is the first legally binding instrument against corruption, and with the UN’s 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals, we can expect to see more concrete anti-corruption consequences.

What can be done?

While there are a number of steps organisations can take to mitigate corrupt behaviours within the enterprise, and throughout their supply chains, there are a few essential areas with which to start.

Education

Utilising extensive resources available for anti-corruption and bribery, individuals and organisations must educate themselves on the prevalence of corruption in their industries. It is important to create an anti-corruption culture throughout the company that starts from the top down. When employees can feel the significance of anti-corruption and bribery policies from the top, they can feel encouraged to embrace the culture themselves.

It’s also essential to properly train your staff and third-party partners on the proper anti-bribery and corruption protocols expected of them. ethiXbase offers the leading Anti-Bribery and Corruption Third-Party Communications and Training. This programme provides training to your third parties and helps to spread a strong message about your organisation’s stance on bribery and corruption, also ensuring that relevant knowledge is shared and practised by the entire business network.

Technology

Major advancements in new technology are available to help organisations understand their history of corruption, identify and monitor ongoing corruption risks, and remediate bribery and corruption from the future of their companies. The best way to get started is to take an Anti-Bribery and Corruption Questionnaire to understand current ABAC risks within your organisation, ranked by priority and prevalence. To fully remediate the identified risks, companies can implement the leading solution in corruption risk identification and management from ethiXbase. This intuitive platform enables swift corruption risk assessments, multi-lingual due diligence for global anti-corruption compliance, and end-to-end, streamlined corruption risk management.

Proactive prevention

Whether or not there are high-priority corruption risks within your organisation, there are still anti-corruption endeavours that can protect your business. Proactive prevention initiatives allow your organisation to maintain control of the situation by eliminating any corruption threats before they begin, rather than reacting to an already rampant culture of corruption. Developing thorough anti-bribery and corruption policies and utilising advanced technology can prevent corrupt conduct within your organisation and along your supply chain.

Protect your organisation with the leading anti-corruption solution

Bribery and corruption continue to be a significant barrier to sustainable development worldwide. Global leaders and governing organisations are increasing initiatives to combat corruption and move toward sustainability, and while these will be the guiding light for anti-corruption endeavours worldwide, individual companies are expected to be doing more. Organisations need to make an effort from within, and they can start by implementing leading technology and solutions in corruption risk management from ethiXbase.

Whether you’re looking for an end-to-end third-party risk management platform or a specific anti-bribery and corruption supply chain solution, ethiXbase 360 has all the tools to protect your business from ABAC risk, both now and into the future. To get started, request a demo from ethiXbase today.

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