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As a proud member of the Steering Group of Business for the Rule of Law (B4ROL) - an exciting new global initiative which seeks, under the auspices of the UN Global Compact, to engage the business community in championing the rule of law - LexisNexis recently partnered with BAB (British American Business) to host a breakfast seminar on the topic of ‘Global Rule of Law – Growing Your Business Responsibly’.
The briefing was attended by over 60 senior legal counsel and business leaders who discussed the following key topics:
Joanna Weller, Global Legal and Regulatory Compliance Counsel LexisNexis Legal & Professional moderated the event and was joined by the following panelists:
Key take outs from the breakfast briefing included:
89% of attendees stated that it is very important or absolutely critical for their organisations to be seen to be promoting the rule of law.
Having certainty of the rule of law and an independent judiciary provided business the certainty and confidence to invest in a country. The costs of compliance can be high, especially for SMEs, but ultimately the cost of not complying is even higher.
Nonetheless, in countries where the rule of law is absent, companies tend to create their own internal governance and policy structures so that they continue to maintain high standards.
It was noted that there is currently no legally enforceable global standard for rule of law that applies internationally, although many companies use similar standards of compliance. Trade agreements were raised as one method to get similar standards across the board. Companies subscribing to the UN Global Rule of Law Business Principles could be another way forward.
Interestingly 31% of the audience completely disagreed that it is the role of in-house counsel to lead promoting the Rule of Law through their organisation and supply chain.
In discussing the key challenges faced by in-house counsel in managing a robust Rule of Law programme, it was acknowledged that historically, anti-corruption and bribery policies within companies have been sporadic and fragmented. This is partly because line managers and country managers are measured according to financial turnover rather than ethics and compliance.
Even so, only 11% of attendees voted that they found it ‘very difficult’ or ‘extremely challenging’ to balance a robust rule of law programme with the realities of getting the deal done.
The importance of providing company-wide training and for it to be offered to as many of the employees as possible was raised; 97% is not good enough if 3,000 employees remain untrained.
This training should then be supplemented with surveying staff on the culture of the company to see whether they understand the importance of these policies.
The key challenge identified by the audience in dealing with bribery and corruption was managing third parties and counterparty risk, with 46% of attendees rating this as their biggest challenge.
The culture of the organisation (21%) and top level buy-in (11%) were the next two biggest challenges identified.
Discussion also observed that by upholding standards of the rule of law in developing markets, businesses can have the effect of raising the standards of others in that country. Business can play a role in helping countries to improve processes such as custom automation, but should draw a line when it comes to funding entire infrastructure systems as this should really be the domain of the Government of that country.
Even countries which do not have an adequate standard of the rule of law can still be ripe ground for investment if suitable partners are found. It is important to have partners who share the same values so that by working together, the standards of others from that country are also raised. Operational issues are therefore more likely to be a deal breaker than insufficient rule of law.
Download the full discussion analysis and voting results.
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Sophie is Head of Learning & Development at F-LEX Legal - an award winning legal tech startup helping law firms and organisations manage a flexible work force and supporting lawyers to make smarter life/work choices.
As part of her portfolio career Sophie runs various learning and development and networking forums for in-house lawyers and mentors junior lawyers. These include Flying Solo for small and solo legal teams and Aspire for junior in-house lawyers which she runs for LexisNexis UK. She also works with schools and organisations to promote social mobility within the legal profession, working with The Social Mobility Business Partnership and Aspiring Solicitors.
She trained as a lawyer in the City and worked as an in-house lawyer for 10 years including as Head of Legal for Virgin Radio and Ginger Media Group.
Outside of work she is happily married with three sons and enjoys morning walks along the beach with her two dogs.
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