29 August 2016

The Olympic Games have highlighted that there’s a long way to go before anyone can be confident that winners have won without cheating.

According to the International Olympic Committee’s website, ‘The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.’

‘Fair play’ means athletes competing against each other based on natural ability, discipline and hard work. This holds true for business. Companies should be competing for business based on the quality of their services or products and competitive pricing.

The introduction to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Resource (FCPA) Guide states, ‘The Act was intended to halt those corrupt practices, create a level playing field for honest businesses, and restore public confidence in the integrity of the marketplace.’ This statement could easily be adapted to the sporting environment.

For both elite sport and global business the aim is to win. But, in both, unethical conduct can gain an advantage: elite sport through doping; and the business world through corruption.

We all want to win. But we should want to win ethically. In business, this means acting responsibly and taking account of the effect we have on local communities: not doing anything that will adversely impact them and, where possible, improving standards of living. Corruption has no upside for communities.

Last week’s 7.30 report and Fairfax Media articles into the alleged corrupt activities of Australian companies, Sundance Resources and Snowy Mountain Engineering, again highlight that there’s also a long way to go before anyone can be confident that Australian companies winning contracts overseas are doing so fairly.

Like cheating in sport, corruption in business creates cynicism about how results are achieved and erodes confidence in business integrity. At an international level, Australia’s business reputation is becoming increasingly tarnished.

Over the last twelve months, we have had a Senate inquiry into foreign bribery and public consultation on whether to introduce a deferred prosecutions regime. Consultation has its place, but it’s now time for decisive action and leadership to stop the rot.