Tuesday, July 10, 2012

There was a lively panel discussion, with a flood of questions from the audience, on the theme of ‘Inclusive economics’ and tackling corruption at the 5th Caux Forum for Human Security at the Caux conference centre in Switzerland on Tuesday 10 July 2012.

(Photo: Louisa Meury)The Chief Compliance Officer of Siemens, Josef Winter, was one of the speakers. In 2008, he said, they had experienced ‘a huge shock’ with 400 police officers raiding their offices. The firm had had to pay a US$1.6 billion fine for bribery. His niece had been ashamed to admit at school that her uncle worked for the firm. With a new board and a new CEO, Peter Loescher, a policy of zero tolerance on corruption was put in place. Winter said, ‘We have proved that not paying bribes is good business, and I believe much better for business. We need to offer the best solution at the best price, and then there’s no need to pay bribes.’ The firm was now making record profits. ‘We have to foster a spirit of pride in our employees,’ he went on, ‘so that it is against their dignity to pay bribes.’

Winter concluded, ‘It is very, very important that we stay clean, it is the only way to stay successful. We’ve seen this in the last 3 years. In the competition for talent, we need the best engineers, and who wants to work for a corrupt company? The leadership has to come from the top. It doesn’t work at all if the leaders don’t lead. We can hear nice speeches in the morning, but at the bar in the evening, the message needs to be the same.’

Also in the panel was Sarosh Ghandy, recently retired after 44 years working with the Tata group, and now involved in ethics training NGOs. His Centre for Ethical Leadership had been working with Siemens in India for last 3-4 years, and now some 270 out of 500 senior executives had been trained in values and ethics, as part of furthering Siemens’ compliance programme. In his years with Tata, over some 40 years, he had sent thousands of workers and managers to the Indian centre of IofC in Panchgani for ethics training. ‘If India is to continue to develop, we must face the challenge of better governance, in corporate and political life. We musts show that ethics and business are compatible,’ Ghandy said.

Farai Maguwu, Director of the Centre for Research and Development in Mutare, Zimbabwe, also spoke about his struggle against corruption and violence in the diamond-mining industry in his country, a struggle that had taken him to prison. ‘We die when we are silent on things that matter,’ he said. ‘We must dream out loud about a better future, where people are treated with dignity.’ Zimbabwe was ‘a man-made disaster’ he said. With perhaps 20% of the world’s reserves of diamonds, and 2 billion dollars not going into the national exchequer each year. Even the cabinet minister responsible couldn’t say where the money was going, he said, noting that ‘this creates some transparency problems’. He had gone into hiding for a week, before turning himself in for arrest in 2010. ‘If we all go into exile, what will become of our country?’ he asked. ‘We must critique what happens at home. There are some honest politicians we can work with, and if we keep on working with civil society, there’s hope for Zimbabwe,’ he concluded.

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