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How to ensure you are doing business with integrity

Exporting gives businesses the potential to grow, innovate and become more resilient, however selling overseas doesn’t come without its risks. Making sure you comply with the local legislation and human rights laws is crucial when working with overseas partners and customers. We all have a basic understanding of business integrity and how to act appropriately when conducting business, however applying these to commercial activities in an overseas country where you are not as familiar with the customs and/or legislation can sometimes be a delicate issue and leave your business open to risks.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) in conjunction with the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office has recently launched the Business Integrity Consultancy Service which aims to help companies minimise risk when trading overseas, ensuring they can sell their products and services into any market and continue to prosper through export.

Read on to find out how you can best mitigate risks when exporting your goods and services, and ensure you are doing business with integrity by using the Business Integrity Consultancy Service.

What is business integrity?

Integrity is defined as ‘doing the right thing at all times’ and applies to the values to which you or your business hold itself. Within a business context integrity this refers to a moral code a company promises to adhere to by being transparent and honest.

Setting values and integrity rules is a vital part of a business but can sometimes be quite subjective because they generally composed by individuals within a business and different perceptions on morality can differ. It is therefore also important to make sure you are clear on local regulations and legislation, but also customs to avoid any legal implications or even prosecutions.

In addition to setting your business’ core values and making sure you comply with local laws, it is important to ensure your employees are properly trained and act appropriately on behalf of the business. Having clear operations, procedures and policies in place will make sure your employees know what to do in difficult situations.

How can I mitigate risk?

It can sometimes be challenging to dedicate the time and resources required to research and avoid the risks that come with selling overseas. However, it is the business’ responsibility to avoid any activities related to bribery, corruption and/or human rights violation.

These risks shouldn’t put you off doing business in countries that have been defined as high-risk, especially when there are lots of opportunities for your business which will be commercially beneficial. So, put the right measures in place and make use of DIT’s Business Integrity Service which will help to overcome some of the challenges and increase your awareness for activities that can put your business at risk.

What is the Business Integrity Service?

DIT’s Business Integrity Consultancy Service aims to support and prepare companies for doing business in high risk countries to help them avoid corruption and bribery allegations. UK companies can access the service at a reduced cost which includes up-to five days of consultancy. The reduction of the cost depends on the size of the company and may cover up to 80% for small businesses.

What does the service do?

  • General guidance on the types of business integrity risks you may encounter when doing business abroad and how to mitigate them
  • Signpost to free online business integrity resources relating to prevention activities
  • Provide businesses with funding for support services through consultancies on:
    • Anti-corruption
    • Anti-bribery
    • Human rights
  • Market and sector specific guidance on business integrity risks in certain markets (currently Pakistan, Mexico and Kenya)
  • Guidance on specialist professional support

Limits of the service

The service cannot support businesses with the technicities of the law which means DIT cannot receive, process or discuss specific allegations of bribery, corruption or human rights abuses. Any specific allegations should be reported to the Serious Fraud Office.

How can I access the service?

Exporters, importers and foreign investors can apply for the Business Integrity Consultancy Service if they are conducting business in a foreign country that receives Official Development Assistance (link) or if your business is planning to do business in one of these countries. To qualify for the service, you mustn’t employ more than 250 people and have a turnover of no more than £44 million.

Find out if you are eligible and get in touch with the Business Integrity Hub at bih@dfid.gov.uk or download an application form.