BY Teresa Alho
The Oscars are looming and designers and fashion houses are all vying for the attention of A-list celebrities. The amount of publicity garnered from a celebrity wearing their gown is almost priceless. The competition is so high that some designers have resorted to bribing the stars and stylists to use their dresses.
According to the New York Post, the lead up to the Oscars is big business and some stylists take gifts from fashion houses. Stylist Philip Bloch says: “I’ve heard of them offering vouchers for liposuction and other nip/tucks.” Some designers even offer ’free face-lifts’ and $5 000 (about R37 900) ”tokens of appreciation,” Bloch says.
But though free publicity in the fashion world can make a fashion house, bad publicity around bribery or corruption in your business could break it. According to Professor Willem Lundman, Executive Director of the Ethics Institute of South Africa, the best way to prevent corruption is to build a culture of ethics in a company.
He provides the following tips to help prevent and root out corruption:
- Take a technical approach by putting certain structures and process in place, for example a hotline where stakeholders can anonymously report cases of corruption. Have these reports investigated and followed by criminal action if necessary. This will help act as a deterrent to corruption. Technical intervention is applied after corruption has taken place.
- Build ethical leadership and an ethical culture. Start by incorporating ethics into your company’s corporate governance. In any organisation, building and managing an ethical culture effictively will prevent or minimise corruption practices. The first principle in the first chapter of The King Report on Corporate Governance states: “The board should provide effective leadership based on an ethical foundation”. Principle 1.3 further states: “The board should ensure that the company’s ethics is managed effectively.”
According to corporate governance expert Mervyn King, every company should:
1. Undergo a risk assessment. You need to know at what risk you are for corruption so you know how to manage it.
2. Set ethical standards by means a code of ethics and ethics related policies, eg a conflict of interest policy bears directly on corruption. Set standards which have to be observed. Policies not only address your risk, but also aspire towards having a company of integrity.
3. Implement standards. Integrate those standards in the culture of your company. This involves training and communication (to both internal and external stakeholders). For example, run educational programmes at all levels, starting from the top down. If you have specialists like those in IT or procurement, get special training, as they deal with special risks. Set up an ethics office and committee that runs all these processes. Incorporate the standards and culture into your communication strategies, ie via posters or emails. Look at your different risks of corruption and implement ways to avoid them.
4. Report publicly on the ethical health of the company. The ethical processes and standards should form part of your internal audit. This way, people who want to invest can assess the risks of the company. It will help the company to reduce the likelihood of those risks.