This is lesson five of six on business ethics.

Here are links to the other five:

Lesson 01-01, Lesson 01-02

Lesson 02-01, Lesson 02-02

Lesson 03-01, Lesson 03-02


According to the watchdog group Transparency International, corruption consists of improper payments or bribery. The World Bank, the leading development agency, defines corruption as the privatization of public policy.

Corruption presents one of the biggest human resources challenges that multinational corporations face when working on a global scale in a range of developed and developing countries.

Essentially, corruption amounts to a societal tax in support of bad governance. As development progresses, demand for better governance tends to go up.

In the development community, there is significant debate about whether to prioritize anti-corruption efforts over economic development.


Familiarity with assigned resources and an understanding of the relationship between governance, development, and business.


A. In-Class Activities
Listen: Lecture (30 minutes)

Do: Discussion (30 minutes)

B. Assignments to Be Completed in Advance (0-2+ hours)
Listen: Joanne Bauer, "The Business and Human Rights Centre and the Importance of Human Rights Policies," Workshop for Ethics in Business (March 22, 2007)

Bauer discusses the work of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre in advancing corporate human rights policies.

"Innovations in Fighting Corruption: Rapporteur's Summary," Policy Innovations (September 24, 2007)

The speakers of this Workshop for Ethics in Business include representatives from AccountAbility, GE, Lockheed Martin, and the World Bank.

Laurance Allen and Devin Stewart, "Corruption Ebbs in Africa," Policy Innovations (July 16, 2007)

The World Bank reports that corruption is on the wane in Africa. Devin Stewart interviews Nairobi-born publisher Laurance Allen about the progress he has seen in Africa over several decades.

Bryane Michael, "Suing against Corruption: The Role of Civil Law," Policy Innovations (July 23, 2007)

As more and more World Bank and USAID money is spent on complex anticorruption programs, business can lead the way in the fight against corruption by using civil remedies, taking corrupt officials and the governments they represent to court.

Devin Stewart, "A Kite Runner Approach to Understanding Corruption," Policy Innovations (November 30, 2007)

All sins are a variation of theft, according to the father character in Khaled Hosseini's novel The Kite Runner. Corruption is theft of public trust in institutions.


A. Is corruption culturally relative?

B. Should business practices be standardized across a company's entire operation?

C. Does corruption impede or speed the conduct of global business?

D. How can companies train their employees to avoid and manage situations where bribes are demanded?


"Business Principles for Countering Bribery," Transparency International (2009)

This Transparency International publication contains a useful anti-bribery code, developed with a group of multinationals and non-corporate stakeholders. Its significance is acknowledged by global initiatives such as the United Nations Global Compact and the World Economic Forum Partnering against Corruption Initiative.

Patrick Stalgren, "Corruption in the Water Sector," Swedish Water House Policy Brief Number 4, Stockholm International Water Institute (Fall 2006)

The global water crisis is primarily a crisis of governance, and corruption affects the governance of water by affecting who gets what water when, where, and how.

Ken Stier, "Merck's Dubai Ethics Center," Policy Innovations, (October 12, 2007)

Resolute ethical business standards can be a distinct bottom-line liability for companies operating in environments where corruption is more the rule than the exception. To address this obstacle Merck decided to underwrite the creation of an ethics center in Dubai.

Alexandra Wrage, Business Ethics Gone Without TRACE, Policy Innovations (February 29, 2008)

As a neutral third party, TRACE works with commercial competitors to address the challenges they all face, delivering an antibribery message to corrupt officials.