Bhutan, a new democracy and landlocked country surrounded by China and India, may be one of the most progressive countries regarding corporate ethics and anti corruption policies. This whole country (which is only slightly larger than the state of Maryland) has committed itself fully to an ethical culture. It started with resolute tone-at-the-top when the country’s leader, Prime Minister Jigme Thinley, put forth a clear definition of what corruption is, why it is bad and what behaviors are expected of the citizens. These guiding principles are mandated of Bhutan’s leaders, who continue to make anti corruption campaigns (essentially civic anti corruption training) a top priority.
Bhutan, which thinks of itself as the happiest place on earth, has a very small but growing economy, based largely on an increase in tourism. Visitors to the country, Thinley has said, “should not be going back from our country with obligations. They need to be going back filled with happiness.” That’s an interesting concept. In fact, the prime minister, who came into power as a result of democratic elections in 2008, implores the country to base its policies on gross national happiness rather than purely economic considerations.
How about this to put things in perspective: this fledgling nation is ranked as the least corrupt country in Southeast Asia and ranks 33rd on Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index. And Bhutan has less than 750,000 people in total, about a third of the number of people employed by Wal-Mart. Bhutan’s Constitution – akin to a company’s code of conduct – includes this as a fundamental duty of its people: “Every person shall have the duty to uphold justice and to act against corruption.”
What an example of tone from the top that at least seems to be working (or at least gaining some recognition). It’s really a matter of public accountability and fairness. Bhutan’s leaders believe the consequences of acting in a corrupt manner are a potential risk to the development of their country’s democratic process and to their people’s well-being. To back their vision, the leaders walk their talk, leading by example. Integrity and incorruptibility of their leadership is their goal.
This ties directly into our philosophy at The Network. We believe if an organization’s leadership engages the persons in their organizations, and sets “tone from the top” as to what behavior is acceptable, those employees and third-parties will behave more ethically, increasing overall compliance. Research shows, and we agree, that an ethical organization continuously outperforms a non-compliant organization.
Bhutan is proving that “corruption is never inevitable.” We couldn’t agree more.