Business Associations - Trailblazer in Building Corporate Culture of Integrity

2:10:23 PM | 15/11/2019

“Business associations are expected to be active partners and vigorous implementers of the movement of enhancing business integrity in companies they represent, and work together to create a strong shield in order to minimize and prevent risks of bribery and corruption in business transactions."

This is a confirmation by VCCI President Vu Tien Loc at the Workshop “Enhancing Business Sector Engagement through Integrity Pledge Cooperation”. The event was co-organized by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), the United Nations Development Program in Vietnam (UNDP) and the British Embassy in Hanoi on November 13 in Hanoi. This is among core activities of the “Government - Business Integrity Initiative” (GBII) launched by VCCI in the UNDP regional framework of “Promoting Fair Business Environment in ASEAN” Project. The project aims to support the development of transparent mechanisms in both the public and private sectors, strengthen the rule of law, fight against corruption, and develop examples of responsible businesses.

Speaking at the workshop, Dr. Vu Tien Loc said that corruption is an issue globally, not just in Vietnam. Corruption causes a negative impact on the whole society. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), each year, corruption costs as much as 5% of global GDP, or US$2.6 trillion. Corruption raises corporate costs and creates instability for companies. Corruption leads to inefficient use of public budgets. Therefore, fighting against corruption requires a lot of efforts from all parties including the Government, the business community, social organizations, media agencies, the international donor community and the whole society.

Stressing the role of the business community in corruption resistance and business integrity, VCCI President Vu Tien Loc affirmed that integrity is an anchor of businesses that keeps them moving towards sustainable development. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are considered an important driving force of economic development as they account for about 98% of total businesses in Vietnam. However, this business sector is very vulnerable to corruption.

In Vietnam, 11 business associations officially signed the Commitment to Business Integrity to uphold the core values ​​of integrity, responsibility and ethical behavior in business. Signatories include the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (Vitas), the Vietnam Association of Consumer Goods Development (VACOD), the Hanoi SME Association, the Vietnam Leather, Footwear and Handbag Association (Lefaso); the Hanoi Business Association (HBA), the Vietnam Pharmaceutical Companies Association (VNPCA), the Ho Chi Minh City Business Association, the Ho Chi Minh City Rubber and Plastics Association, the Ho Chi Minh City Textile and Garment - Embroidery Association (Agtek), and the Ho Chi Minh City Plastic Association.

He added that nearly 400 business associations are currently operating across the country. They have recently worked closely with VCCI in many activities to deliver constructive opinions on policymaking, train and build up capacity for associations, support businesses to adopt new, responsible business models to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. One of recognized close cooperation ties with VCCI is the active participation of business associations in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in small-scale campaigns initiated by VCCI to call for business associations to sign the “Commitment to Business Integrity.”

Ms. Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP Resident Representative in Vietnam, said, anticorruption has the most important role, especially in the context of international economic integration. The need to promote values ​​of equality, integrity and transparency to “leave no one behind” is becoming more urgent than ever. However, time needs to be change, so there should be clear goals for each timeframe to monitor the progress of commitments and make sure that such commitments are not merely a promise but also an effective tool to promote fair and transparent business environment in Vietnam.

Stressing the role of associations in the fight against corruption and business integrity in Vietnam, Mr. Florian Beranek, senior corporate social responsibility specialist, asserted that business associations are the vanguard force that attracts their member units to resist corruption. They help establish, promote and maintain relevant standards; promote awareness-raising activities among stakeholders in order to scale up integrity and responsible business models.

Also at the seminar, the Business Office for Sustainable Development under VCCI introduced a financing support program for business associations (only applied to associations that join the campaign of signing the “Commitment to Integrity Business”) and instructed how to submit their initiatives. Its workgroups proposed: Awareness raising (seminars, conferences, communication tools); Capacity building (training); and policy dialogues on business environment. The program activity is one year, including two phases: Phase 1 from December 2019 to March 2020 and Phase 2 from April 2020 to November 2020.

Ha Vu