Corruption is a real problem in the Baltic Sea region. Lotta Rydström at Transparency International Sweden says that the countries in the region have a lot in common, even though the conditions are different in this matter.
Transparency International’s annual global corruption index ranks countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to experts and businessmen. It uses a scale from zero to 100, where zero is very corrupt and 100 is very clean. In the latest survey from 2019, Sweden gets 85 out of 100 possible points, while Lithuania gets 60 points and Russia 28.
To exchange experiences and knowledge, organisations from Lithuania, Russia and Sweden have worked together in a project with a focus on transparency and anti-corruption in the business sector.
– For a long time, companies have only been seen as villains in the work with anti-corruption. But Transparency International early on saw the importance of actively involving companies, says Lotta Rydström.
Among other things, she points to the importance of working against money laundering in the financial sector.
– The risks of money laundering in these countries are considerable, and recently this also led to high penalty fees for two Swedish banks.
The project BIBSR2018, which was funded by the Swedish Institute, has among other things published a report on what is required in order for companies to be able to work with anti-corruption.
– We looked at how the companies themselves, the public sector and civil society, can contribute to this work. We interviewed experts from the private sector, industry organizations, the media, civil society and academia to get an idea of which areas that need to be strengthened. In the report we focused on Sweden and Lithuania, but also experts from Finland and Estonia, among others, have participated, says Lotta Rydström.
She argues that the most important conclusion in the report is that the management of companies must take the anti-corruption work more seriously.
– It is not a paper product that you can tick off and mark as done on your list. The anti-corruption work is an ongoing work that requires commitment and resources. The incentives need to be more clear – what is the consequence of not working with anti-corruption? What does it cost, not only in fines, but also in a damaged brand, layoffs or difficulty in recruiting or stock value and profit loss?
The report also emphasizes the importance of the younger Lithuanian generation in the work for openness and transparency.
– Young people seem to demand more from their employers and seem to be more concerned about justice. They are committed and demand responsibility and change – something that generations before them had a hard time doing. Unfortunately, many of the experts said that young people find it difficult to get into decision-making positions and that change is too slow.
In parallel with the report, project partners in Lithuania and Russia have developed forms of collaboration with the private sector in their respective country – including networks for the exchange of experience and tools for disseminating information. Lotta Rydström reflects that different conditions require different approaches.
Today the project is finalized, but the work against corruption continues through the network that has been created. The conclusions from the report will be used in the work ahead, even though there are currently no concrete plans for more joint activities between the countries.
– We continue to focus on integrity in companies, it is one of our main areas. I hope that we can find new forms of collaboration and perhaps together with other partners. We are all part of the same global network.
Find the report published by the BIBSR2018 project here: Business Integrity across the Baltic Sea: A needs assessment for effective business integrity in Lithuania and Sweden
The project BIBSR2018 is funded by SI through the funding scheme “Seed funding for cooperation projects in the Baltic Sea region”. SI provides funding for joint projects in which organisations based in Sweden can start and expand collaborations to meet transnational challenges together with organisations from the Baltic Sea region countries including Russia and the countries of the EU Eastern Partnership. A new call is ongoing and closes 11 February 2021. A digital information seminar is held 18 January 2021. Register here.