Although Ukraine still ranks a lowly 120 out of 180 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, more local businesses are making the choice to operate transparently and compliantly.
A vivid illustration of their anti-corruption stance is the Ukrainian Network for Integrity and Compliance (UNIC), which today unites 56 companies that employ more than 102,000 people from 53 cities of Ukraine.
The Business Ombudsman Council in Ukraine, with the support of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Organization for European Cooperation and Development, helped form UNIC in October 2017. UNIC’s aim is to expedite the pace of Ukraine’s economic recovery and attract much-needed foreign investment.
UNIC is a membership organization that serves as a platform to promote responsible business practices and transfer expertise about how implementing and practicing compliance standards. UNIC hosts educational events for businesses of various sizes from a wide array of industries: pharmaceutical, agricultural, banking, construction, finance, trade, food, manufacturing, legal services, and others.
UNIC members voluntarily pledge to act with integrity and regularly assess their corruption risks. To help deliver on these promises, UNIC created a certification that is based on the ISO 37001:2016 Anti-bribery Management System, and also partnered with TRACE to provide its members with access to TRACEcertification, a due diligence review which complements UNIC’s certification and can be completed additionally.
Doing business in Ukraine still remains a challenge. But instilling rigorous compliance practices is worth it, with tangible benefits of certification that include easier access to external funding. UNIC’s certification is an important signal to foreign investors that some Ukrainian companies are willing to transform themselves to become more attractive to new shareholders, partners, and contractors.
UNIC’s two years of operation show that companies, large and small, join the network and work their way to certification for three reasons:
It signals easier due diligence. The UNIC certification helps ensure a company’s readiness for possible due diligence by foreign investors and partners. The requirements for certification closely resemble those used by financial institutions in pre-funding stages. Companies that would like to take this a step further, have the option to complete TRACEcertification.
Quality assurance head start. Mid-sized and small companies that undergo UNIC certification pass contractor pre-qualifications much faster than their peers. Larger companies see UNIC membership and certification as stepping-stones toward entering into foreign partnerships, joint ventures, and investment opportunities. The UNIC logo, a special marking on the goods and services produced by UNIC members, now provides for a greater recognition of the companies’ transparent and ethical behavior in the market.
Best practices bring better business skills. In the exchange of case studies and dialogue facilitated by UNIC and reinforced through the certification process, members develop compliance best practices that also improve the overall quality of management.
UNIC is the first organization in Ukraine to demonstrate the practical and the economic viability of integrity and compliance. Not all UNIC members will obtain certification quickly. But the spreading interest in Ukraine in operating ethically and transparently is a recognition of the economic value to everyone of good reputation and transparency.
Ganna Gerasymchuk, pictured above, is Head of Secretariat of the Ukrainian Network of Integrity and Compliance (UNIC), a new initiative for businesses that want transparency in Ukraine. It was created in May 2017 by the Business Ombudsman Council, with the support of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).