How can SMEs best address the threat of bribery and corruption?

Bribery and corruption impacts SMEs across the world, highlighting the need for transparency and strong regulatory frameworks

How can SMEs best address the threat of bribery and corruption

Corruption is a poison; it distorts markets, stunts economic growth, and deters investment.  Many very small businesses don’t have the bargaining power to refuse when small bribes are demanded of them. Owners have to choose between paying the bribe or losing the business, and often that is no choice at all for someone trying to support a family.

At ACCA, our latest report: Bribery and corruption: The hidden social evil on your doorstep, explores how bribery and corruption impact SMEs across the world, highlighting the need for transparency and strong regulatory frameworks. 

A global problem

The research shows more than half (59%) of global SMEs and their advisers believe standing up to bribery and corruption will cost them business trade or opportunities. The UK was more relaxed, with 46% of SMEs thinking taking a stand would cost them. 

However, 77% of global respondents, and 67% of UK respondents, agree a strong anti-bribery policy boosts customer confidence in their business. Furthermore, 68% globally and 68% in the UK say it increases their chances of getting lucrative contracts with big businesses and public sector bodies. Our latest report aims to arm businesses and regulators with the necessary insights and tools to root out corruption and foster an environment of transparency and trust. Just as criminals are using technology, regulators and enforcement agencies should embrace its potential. 

Talent shortages

Yet, the problem may be more deep-rooted than simply acknowledging and preventing bribery and corruption, as we know that UK businesses face a large skills gap. 65% of UK respondents in other ACCA research parallel to this report found it hard to recruit or retain finance staff, meaning those who come across bribery and corruption may not have the skills or expertise to recognise it, let alone counter it. Even for those who are in position to tackle it, they may not feel they have the right support systems around them to raise it, such as a whistleblowing policy.

But that skills gap isn’t just in the anti-bribery and corruption (ABC) field; our data tells us 75% of employers see a need for upskilling of staff across the board. There’s a tension for management to balance the need to give staff the skills to build and grow a viable business in the first place, and the need for staff to be able to protect that business once it becomes an attractive target for criminals. With limited time/money/resources available, it’s perhaps inevitable that building a business to protect takes precedence over protecting a business that hasn’t been built, but it’s vital that ABC skills don’t get lost in the background.

Bribery and corruption are global issues, but it is encouraging to see SMEs agreeing stringent anti-bribery policies in fact boost business prospects. We hope our latest report serves as a catalyst for change, encouraging SMEs to evaluate their practices and align with the best standards of business conduct. Failure to comply can lead to severe consequences, including legal penalties and damage to their reputations, so it is essential SMEs are supported in tackling bribery and corruption to lead to more secure, and honest, business practices around the world.

Jason Piper
Jason Piper

Share via
Copy link