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.

It is important to emphasize that this is not simply a developing country problem. Fighting corruption is a global challenge – Daniel Kaufmann

BAM companies will be motivated to take a stand against corruption for many different reasons, not least their commitment to ethical, Biblically-based business practice. Operating with integrity in business will have a wide-ranging impact, on employees, suppliers, clients and even government officials. Integrity in business practice will give BAM companies a voice of influence. In the past BAMers have found themselves giving input on the tax code for a central Government or helping to write an anti-corruption policy for a local government office! Fighting corruption is often part of an intentional plan for transformational impact, but can also be a daunting prospect.

Much of the world’s business is carried out by small and medium enterprises (SMEs), especially in emerging economies… [and that] SMEs in many societies are frequently confronted with the problem of bribery. As smaller companies with limited resources SMEs face challenges in resisting and countering such pressures. Also, there are growing requirements made by large international companies for their suppliers to show evidence they have appropriate anti-bribery policies and systems in place. Countering bribery is good business practice. It can help build reputation, especially with customers, and it can reduce risks. By building strong anti-bribery cultures SMEs can successfully challenge and resist bribery.1

Watch Mats Tunehag speak on how business can fight poverty and corruption:

Jo Plummer Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of the BAM Global Think Tank and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website. 

This introduction is also featured in the Corruption Toolkit. There are many tools to help BAM practitioners overcome corruption and bribery and the Corruption Toolkit will show you some good places to start.

[1] Business Principles for Countering Bribery: Small and Medium Enterprise Edition (2008) – Transparency International

[2] The Costs of Corruption (2004) – The World Bank

[3] Death and Taxes: the true toll of tax dodging (2008) – Christian Aid