Business sign ethics code to eliminate graft

March 17, 2012
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Vimal Shah of Bidco, which is one of the firm's already signed up/FILE
NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 17 – The Kenyan business community is looking to increase governance in business by reducing corruption in the private sector.

Headed by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), the Code of Ethics initiative seeks to promote and enhance the ethics of business conduct in the country, and 40 companies including Serena Hotels, Bidco Oil and Safaricom are among the first to sign up.

Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) Chief Executive Officer Betty Maina urged businesses to sign up in order to protect their investments.

“The cost of not being ethical is quite enormous and businesses have had to close down or make huge losses because of the loss of their reputation for violating basic values and non-compliance regulations,” she said.

“Once a company’s image and reputation has been dented it becomes very hard to restore it so it’s critical to focus on your own business sustainability by signing up or adopting ethical behaviour,” she emphasised.

The initiative is meant to complement and not replace individual company codes of ethics, advocating that members commit to treating stakeholders with respect, run their businesses with responsibility, act in compliance with applicable laws and actively be involved in corruption prevention.

Gichugu MP Martha Karua said that the initiative will only be successful if it’s first adopted by individual employees.

“Corporations act through the individuals who are manning them so the commitment. Although it’s a corporate code of conduct, can only be actualized if the individuals within the organization are committed to the code,” she explained.

“It’s about taking corporate but also individual responsibility,” she added.

Maina acknowledged that the businesses partaking in the initiative were making a huge commitment to their organisations, shareholders, consumers, suppliers, government, and the natural environment.

“We are committed to play a proactive role in building a globally competitive and prosperous nation, with a highly quality of life, as envisioned in 2030,” she announced.

“As leaders, we demonstrate our ethical commitment by creating policies and structures to implement the values and obligations of this code in our organisations, and by reporting annually on our adherence to this code,” she noted.

In the first year as members of the initiative, businesses are required to adhere to the code, make it public that they have committed to the code on a website or annual report and participate in seminars and workshops organised by the Global Compact Network Kenya (GCNK), KAM, KEPSA and the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE).

During the second year they are expected to publicly report on the implementation process and indicate how the company has applied and integrated the code, in addition to highlighting the progress it has made by implementing an internal ethics and antic corruption management programme.

Maina added that businesses will also have to promote responsible business conduct and exert influence on other companies to adhere to the code, warning that failure to follow regulations will lead to serious consequences.

“Should a signatory company transgress this code, the ethics board will discuss the transgression with the offending company at the highest level to ensure that steps are put in place to avoid a recurrence,” she declared.

“We will also release a public statement expressing moral disapproval of the transgression, while publicly excluding the offending organisation from the code until it is satisfied that the transgression has been corrected,” she confirmed.

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