25 Years of Business in China: Interview on Tackling Corruption

Interview with Dwight Nordstrom

Dwight, you have been in business for 25 years in China, and not just any business, you’ve been involved in manufacturing in big industries, like chemicals and telecommunications, regularly importing supplies and exporting products. How big has the issue of corruption been?

Well let me just start by saying: This is real! This is not hypothetical stuff, it’s a big issue for us. I would say I have to deal with about 25 cases a year of substantial corruption-related situations. To put that in perspective with other common issues faced by businesses, in last 20 years, across our operations of about 5000 people in Asia, I have had zero illegal drug issues, a couple of alcohol related issues, I have had two sexual harassment issues of a serious nature to deal with, but the major issue by a long way is corruption which I have had to deal with at least twice a month. Corruption is a big issue.

Can you give us an example where you’ve had to deal with someone trying to bribe you?

We’ve had situations where we’ve lost business over refusing to pay a bribe. We had a speciality chemical and the representative in a wholly-owned German company asked for a 5% kickback, with 1% going into a personal account. That was a million dollar plus account per year and I don’t even know now six years later if we’ve ever recovered the value of the account. Read more

Doing Business in Kazakhstan: Economic Implications of Worldview

by Kevin White

Kazakhstan is one of the top ten fastest growing economies in the world. This multicultural developing nation is home to 140 various ethnicities and 17 religious groups. The capital city Astana is slated to host the Expo 2017. Kazakhstan’s ambitious 2050 plan is to become one of the top thirty most developed economies in the world. In this vein, Kazakhstan is engaging in unprecedented efforts to attract foreign investment. Recent legislation is offering investors 30% government subsidies on their investment and up to ten years tax free. This offer has been marketed to Western audiences through canny ad campaigns in popular media venues such as Euronews.

Yet in spite of these sincere efforts, corruption behind the scenes is still all too prevalent. A spokesman for the Dutch embassy, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that recently a Dutch company took Kazakhstan up on its attractive offer. However, shortly after completion of their new facility, Kazakhstan “inspectors” found a piece of machinery in violation to some obscure code. As a result the Dutch company had their investment subsidy rescinded and were fined 40% of their investment for a penalty. Similarly, a German businessman stated that German companies are still hesitant to invest substantially because of the routine problems of corruption and bureaucracy.    Read more

Lessons from the Edge: Dealing with Bribery in China

Insights from a BAM Practitioner

Dwight Nordstrom is a veteran of doing business in Asia for almost 30 years. He is on a continuing journey of learning how to deal with bribery and corruption as he leads Pacific Resources International, to expand manufacturing operations in China.

Don’t make blanket statements about bribery and corruption. 
This issue is simple, yet complex! It is good practice to talk about individual cases versus making unilateral statements. Brainstorm with others. Ask, What does this mean in this context?  Is there a different way we could do this? Is there a way we could still win this business? 

Have a zero tolerance approach in your top leadership. 
Within your own company leaders – especially in your purchasing and financial operations – you have got to have a zero tolerance for bribes. Have good frameworks in place to train, implement and evaluate that zero tolerance approach.

Be incredibly selective about what industry and type of business you get into. 
There are a lot of businesses I wouldn’t touch because it is such a corrupt industry. Select the type of industry very carefully since that will determine how much corruption you will face. Build your competency in an industry that is less corrupt before taking on business in more corrupt sectors.

 

Friday Links: Posts and Resources on Faith at Work

Every Friday we connect you with some of our recent favourite links. This week:

Posts and resources from the marketplace ministries movement.

Entrepreneurship within a Biblical Worldview – Institute for Faith, Work and Economics

Christians have a somewhat schizophrenic view of entrepreneurs. We see them as something of a necessary evil; we recognize their value to some extent but also view them with skepticism and distrust, especially those who become wealthy. They are frequently viewed in a certain accusatory way, as though their wealth has come at the expense of others. This view stems from an incomplete understanding of what entrepreneurs do, how they function, and the role they play in God’s order. Entrepreneurs are vital to fulfilling God’s purpose. They are creative people who provide people with a way of serving others. In that sense, they display a divine characteristic.

Read more

The Challenge of Corruption

Corruption is defined as the misuse of power by someone to whom it has been entrusted, for their own private gain. The most common form of corruption is bribery, which is defined as the giving or receiving of money, a gift or other advantage as an inducement to do something that is dishonest, illegal or a breach of trust in the course of doing business.1

Corruption is one of the biggest issues that business people face globally today, and is a highly relevant topic for business as mission practitioners – Joseph Vijayam, Director of Olive Tech, a BAM company in India and the USA.

Bribery and corruption not only represent a significant risk for your company, but keep millions in poverty.

“[Corruption] constitutes a major obstacle to reducing poverty, inequality and infant mortality in emerging economies” according to Daniel Kaufmann, the World Bank Institute’s director for Governance.According to World Bank Institute (WBI) research, more than $1 trillion dollars (US$1,000 billion) is paid in bribes each year. This US$1 trillion figure is an estimate of actual bribes paid worldwide in both rich and developing countries and does not include embezzlement of public funds or theft of public assets. WBI research also shows that countries that tackle corruption and improve their rule of law can increase their national incomes by as much as four times in the long term, and child mortality can fall as much as 75 percent.2

Christian Aid predicted in 2008 that illegal, trade-related tax evasion alone will be responsible for some 5.6 million deaths of young children in the developing world between 2000 and 2015. That is almost 1,000 a day.3 However, corruption is not just happening in the developing world. Read more

Ask a BAM Mentor: Dealing with Corruption

Twice a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

Dear BAM Mentor,

My customs broker tells me I have to give a gift to the customs officials to get our materials out of customs. He said it’s standard, no big deal. I asked the pastor at our local church and he said it would be terrible to pay a bribe like that – it’s illegal and gives a very bad lesson to others.  I’m new in the business and to importing here, and our business may fold if I can’t get this out soon. Is this a time to die for my principles or should I go with “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”?

~ Contemplating Corruption

Dear Contemplating Corruption,

Over which principle are you considering ‘dying’?  Is it God’s call to honesty? Or is it obedience to the local church and, if so, is the church correct?  I suspect that untangling the issues will help.

It sounds like you live in one of the many countries where written law differs from applied law. That’s how speed laws work in the UK, incidentally – they are applied, but not strictly. Most western country laws against foreign bribery make an explicit exclusion for “expediting payment”, which morally can be classified as extortion by the official who is withholding your legal rights until he or she gets their bribe. That’s fundamentally different from bribing an official to get something for which you don’t have the right. Paying an extortionist is generally a bad idea, but it’s on a different moral level than bribery. I wouldn’t die over an extortionists demand. Read more

Business as Mission: Where social impact and profit, and much more, converge

Post first published on the IBEC Ventures Blog, reposted with kind permission.

Some people find it confusing to read about socially conscious business, social entrepreneurship or values-driven business. Isn’t business just business – driven by profit margins acceptable to shareholders? What’s all this talk of values, social impact and community development?

For the past decade or so it has become increasingly popular to talk about social purposes, meaning that some entrepreneurs have a motive beyond profitability. They want to solve social problems and bring a positive return to society. Big corporations sometimes address this through the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); and business startups sometimes call themselves social entrepreneurs meaning they start businesses which inherently provide for maximum job growth in their area, or they hire the marginalized in the community, or they take gigantic steps to benefit the community by helping solve problems that exist in the community, or all of the above. Some entrepreneurs are driven by a cause, like a software developer eager to provide a better way for people to connect.
Read more

Friday Links: Posts and Resources on Social Enterprise

Every Friday we connect you with some of our recent favourite links. This week:

Posts and resources from the social enterprise movement

The Future of Social Enterprise in 2015 – Fast Company

The social enterprise space has definitely come of age in recent years, growing by leaps and bounds and gaining momentum even as you read this. But there’s no denying that it gets harder from here… I am wresting with how we more clearly define the space without creating a silo for social enterprise and losing sight of the real victory: a time when every business is mission-based with social impact and environmental protection at its core.

Read more

Business as Mission: The Global Movement Today

Mats Tunehag has been speaking, writing and convening on business as mission for nearly 20 years. When he visited The BAM Review office recently, we asked him a few questions about the business as mission movement.

Mats, what have you seen changing in business as mission in the last 15-20 years?

We are seeing a reawakening of what it means to be a Christian in business in our day and age. There has been remarkable growth of people getting engaged in doing business for God and the common good. If we take a 15 year time span, there are things we have today that didn’t exist 15 years ago. Now, we have a greater common understanding globally of this idea that we call ‘business as mission’. There are significant common denominators in our understanding, even though terminology may vary from group to group.

15 years ago when you mentioned business as mission, there were many questions about ‘What is that?’, ‘Is this something we want to get involved in?’. Today you can travel to almost any country and bump into people who have heard of, or are talking about, or practicing, business as mission. That is one of the major changes globally. Read more

Who is a BAMer? Five Sketches from Around the World

Who is a BAMer? What does ‘business as mission’ really mean? Not very much without a human face and real stories of the blood, sweat and tears that it takes to build a business. At the heart of every Kingdom-focused business there is that small team of dedicated human beings, carrying their personal passions and experiences, determined to start businesses that will bring sustainable change. Here are five that are making a difference in very different circumstances around the world.

Scroll through the slides and read more about each story below.

 

  • Famous Ray’s

    With a passion for the Burmese, biking and burgers, Ray and Candace Ward are creating jobs in the border town of Mae Sot in Thailand.

  • Forever Crystals

    When she took over a family jewelry company Merari discovered that business could have a greater impact on the community and globally.

  • TL Made

    Artistic skills and experience in eCommerce enabled the TL Made team to come together to meet some of the needs in the Tenderloin, San Francisco.

  • Quality Coffee

    Ben’s passion for coffee grew into a coffee shop and restaurant chain in the heart of Asia, that in turn grew into a barista training and coffee importing business.

  • English School

    The need to start sustainable business activities alongside high demand for English in the local community led Tati and her team to start an English School in the slums of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Read more