In 2020, the Coalition for Integrity bestowed its prestigious Corporate Leadership Award on Procter & Gamble, making the US-based consumer brands giant one of a handful of recipients of the rigorously-researched honor. During the Integrity Awards virtual celebration in December, the organization also gave its individual award to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease who has become the trusted, omnipresent face of the public health response to the coronavirus crisis both at home and abroad.
The Coalition for Integrity (C4I) is a non-profit based in the United States that advocates to promote integrity in the public and private sectors. Prior to 2017, the organization worked under the aegis of Transparency International-USA before spinning off to do their own work. The Coalition has three main areas of focus: private sector integrity, both by pushing reforms inside companies and pushing for effective enforcement of laws against corruption; reducing the ability of corrupt individuals to move themselves and their money around the globe; and advocating for laws in the United States to increase transparency and reduce opportunities for corruption at the federal and state levels.
Michael Hershman, a C4I board member who has been with the organization for two decades, explains that the awards exist in part to counter the emphasis on negative stories in the anti-corruption space. “Whenever something bad happens,” he says, “it’s plastered all over the front pages of the news media. When people strive to promote integrity, whether a corporation or an individual, you never heard about it.”
That’s why ten years ago, the Coalition decided to start its Integrity Award program to recognize the good work being done, often quietly and without fanfare, by many individuals and organizations to combat corruption around the world. They are adjudicated by Coalition board members from a variety of academic, private sector, government, and civil society backgrounds.
“The Integrity Awards are a celebration,” says Coalition President & CEO Shruti Shah. “We want to recognize contributions by US-based organizations or individuals in the fight against corruption, and the promotion of transparency and accountability in business, government, and civil society. It’s an opportunity to showcase and remind everyone that each of us has a duty to embody these values.”
Recognizing a “Do the Right Thing Culture” at P&G
Procter & Gamble was the 2020 recipient of the Corporate Leadership Award. “Procter & Gamble’s products serve five billion people,” says Shah. “They’re a household name around the world. They’ve shown leadership not only in anti-corruption, but in corporate social responsibility, good governance, respect for human rights, and expecting their external partners to abide by the same policies.”
Speaking with Chief Legal Officer Deborah Majoras about the organization’s “Do the Right Things Culture,” it quickly becomes clear why the organization that she leads deserves the spotlight.
“We start with the assumption that people actually want to do the right thing,” says Majoras. This insight guides the entire organization’s approach. The challenge of compliance isn’t simply to catch certain people predisposed to break the rules—it’s to support each other in avoiding a “slippery slope.”
“The key is to think about [culture] as a team sport,” says Majoras. “We need to help each other We need to approach the subject with a great deal of humility—we are not infallible. I really try to approach this job by modeling that I don’t know the right thing to do every single minute.”
Read Leslie’s full interview with P&G Chief Legal Officer Deborah Majoras, including lessons from her time at the Federal Trade Commission, her perspective on the company’s equity and diversity work, and her approach to fostering transparency.
Shah also emphasizes that P&G’s approach is not merely about avoiding legal risk. “Their program reinforces both the legal and the human cost of bribery,” she says. “I think that’s crucial, because it helps stakeholders understand that bribery not only harms the company, but it also harms the communities in which they do business.”
When asked what the award from the Coalition means for her organization as a whole, Majoras says, “It means a great deal, it’s a terrific honor. As a company, we really work very hard at this. If you think about the legal team, when we do our jobs well, we’re preventing bad things from happening. It’s hard to prove a negative, so you don’t always have recognition, and it’s really, really rewarding for people to get it.”
With that said, Majoras also recognizes the tension between the importance of elevating good work and the necessity of humility. “One of the things about having strong ethics and integrity is that you have to be careful not to talk about it too much. Maybe’s it’s just flat-out bad karma,” she jokes.
“But on the other hand, we don’t want to give the impression that this work is not one of the most important things for organizations. This is the foundation for everything else we do. Without ethics and integrity, the rest is a lot emptier.”
Integrity Evolves and Expands
The general public has increasingly come to agree with the sentiment that companies’ core work should be underpinned by ethics and integrity, and the expectations for what that requires have continued to expand. Coalition board member Hershman notes that just in the brief history of the awards, corporate social responsibility programs have evolved from small charitable donations into more thoughtful, robust programs targeted at issue areas either near to a company’s work or informed by stakeholders such as communities and employees.
Even beyond charitable giving, companies are now expected to engage on social problems. “Can companies divorce themselves from issues of racial justice, climate change, #MeToo, or even the pandemic? The answer, obviously I think, is no,” says Shah. She references the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, which made it clear that business is the most-trusted institution in our society on a range of issues.
This combination of broader issue engagement with heightened public expectations has spurred multilateral cooperation among businesses. “An evolution has taken place,” says Hershman, “with many more examples of collective action between sectors, with organizations like the Partnership Against Corruption Initiative or the UN Global Compact.”
Perhaps most significantly in the last year, calls rose for companies to examine their own contributions to the fight for social justice for Black Americans and other disadvantaged groups. P&G has a long history of leadership on racial justice. Even so, Majoras says, “2020 was a wake-up call for all of us on what remains to be done. We know we’ll be held accountable for the things we say, as we should be. Diversity is important, but diversity without inclusion is just counting heads.”
A Credible Role Model
If other companies are looking for role models in their quest to become the next Corporate Leadership Award winner, they couldn’t do much better than last year’s other recipient, Dr. Anthony Fauci. “He’s really cut through all of these negative trends, in terms of declining public trust and the never-ending tide of misinformation,” says Shah. “He’s managed to maintain credibility and trust, acting with honesty and transparency in his communications with the American people, especially when it’s been difficult telling people what they don’t want to hear.”
Honesty and transparency may be in short supply, but our public servants and private sector could certainly stand to develop them a bit more.
About the Expert:
Leslie Benton is a Vice President at Ethisphere, where she engages with global companies on assessing and benchmarking anti-corruption programs and building capabilities across organizations and with third parties. Additionally, she leads the anti-corruption initiatives at the Center for Responsible Enterprise And Trade (CREATe.org); and is one of the ISO 37001 Anti-Bribery Management Systems Standard drafters as a member of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group to the ISO committee developing ISO 37001.