Current Affairs Construction supplier paves way for corruption-free business
Holcim Czech Republic, a major supplier of construction materials, has begun putting the logo of a non-profit organization Transparency International on its product packaging starting this week. The move is part of a slow, but important trend among Czech companies trying to make their employees and customers aware of their anti-corruption policies.
Holcim is part of an international corporation with roots in Switzerland and its Czech branch is in the process of introducing comprehensive anti-corruption policies for its operations. The company found a partner for this transition in the well-established corruption fighting Czech NGO Transparency International (TI). Now, packages of cement distributed by Holcim will carry the Transparency International logo, and one crown from every ton of cement sold will be donated to the organization. Radio Prague spoke to David Ondráčka, the head of the Czech branch of TI, about why this move is significant, besides the financial contribution that Holcim will be making.
“The Czech construction market is extremely vulnerable [to corruption], and I hope that this will be a positive signal that will show that there are companies who want to be leaders in ethical business and want to refrain from corrupt practices and help, step-by-step, clean the house and clean up the market. Of course, the key problem in the construction sector is public contacts, but I hope that this signal from Holcim and other construction companies will be heard in the public sector and in politics.”
This year a number of laws were introduced in the Czech Republic that have placed more responsibility for corrupt practices of individuals with the companies, and in the cases of international corporations, with the parent companies. Has this helped change the atmosphere in Czech business, and have more corruption cases appeared in courts?
“The recent wave of investigations of corruption in the Czech Republic has very often involved people from the business sector. And we will see more of these people will be prosecuted and brought to justice. If you take, for example, the case of the former Central Bohemian governor David Rath, the other people who were charged with corruption in that case are from companies that worked as contractors for the government. And they will be prosecuted and might end up going to jail as well. So even when it is a highly political case, people from the business sector are involved as well.
“At the same time, Czech companies neglect the implementation of preventive mechanisms for corruption. They do not realize that businesses share the responsibility for what is happening in the country.”
The Office for the Protection of Competition recently issued a fine to the Railway Administration for excluding the construction company Skanska from a public tender. Skanska is another company that is trying to be more transparent. Is this a significant enough indicator that the authorities are willing to stand behind companies that are attempting to avoid corrupt practices?
“Not necessary. It is not enough. Of course, this one particular case will not change the whole system. But it is true that Skanska made it very clear that they want to change the corporate culture in the Czech Republic. They actually also joined the Transparency International club. But, so far, they have been loosing business, mainly in the public sector. I believe, though, that in the long run this anti-corruption policy will benefit them. And other construction companies will join them in this as well.
“In practical terms, though, this is extremely demanding for the companies’ management. Because, on the one hand they want to comply with the anti-corruption norms, on the other hand, they of course want to see their business flourish, and if these two things are not going in the same direction, they come under a lot of pressure.”