Honesty is the best policy when doing business

Unfortunately, some outfits that venture out to do business in countries where corruption is rampant have a faulty agenda - to survive by adapting to the corrupt environment and paying bribes to win lucrative deals and improve the sales graph.

I am with associate editor Vikram Khanna, who highlighted the issue following the Keppel Offshore and Marine scandal (Walking the talk on corruption; Jan 3).

There are corporate outfits that seem to have everything in place: sound internal control system, well-documented best practices, and clean certification from auditors and other regulators. However, one critical element is lacking - an ethical practice framework.

Business ethics cannot be imposed from the outside; it is a culture practised by the people running a business or country. Systems, certifications, declarations and governance have zero meaning when people conspire to engage in unethical practices for quick monetary gain, and forget their promise of "zero tolerance for corruption" to investors and stakeholders.

Maybe the root cause is greed, which is eroding our ethical values; consumerism and conspicuous consumption; or zero tolerance for patience and sincere and honest efforts.

What is the way out? Maybe tough penalties, including jail terms and fines, can act as deterrent. Whistle blowers also play a role.

People have to be convinced that honesty is the best policy. This golden maxim still applies today to every domain, be it business, government or our families.

Atanu Roy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2018, with the headline 'Honesty is the best policy when doing business'. Print Edition | Subscribe