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Alfano: “Reputation strengthens competitiveness” (Il Sole 24 Ore)

Tackling crime and corruption is a critical challenge for public institutions and private companies to broaden the international competitiveness of Italy and combat the negative perceptions that affect market confidence, discourage investment and weaken public confidence in public institutions. I have been working on this issue for many years, ever since my first ministerial appointment as Minister of Justice.

Along with the economic diplomacy already being carried out by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, we wish to add “anti-corruption, legal diplomacy” to help project Italy’s image abroad, and to protect that image and reduce the gap between perception and reality in our economic and regulatory systems. Therefore, to celebrate International Anti-Corruption Day, the Foreign Ministry, in association with Transparency Italia and other enterprises, is launching an innovative project abroad to present the compliance models and integrity and anti-corruption practices of companies that lead in these areas. For the first time, three Italian diplomatic offices – in Oslo, Washington and Paris – will host Italian Business Integrity Days to illustrate the tools used by companies to prevent deviation or unlawful behaviour. Leading companies who belong to the Business Integrity Forum (BIF) promoted by Transparency include: AST, Edison, Falck Renewables, Luxottica, SNAM, TIM, and members of the UN Global Compact network, such as ENI.

Even though these companies operate in very different areas on foreign markets, they are all convinced that reputation has become a competitive advantage in terms of presence on markets, and economic and employment return. They therefore decided to invest in improving how they do business and their working environments, creating a lawful business culture and spreading this culture in accordance with innovation and sustainability.

The companies have drawn up a practical tool in the business integrity forum for small and medium sized enterprises known as the anti-corruption integrity kit. It contains suggestions on how to develop honest business practices in the more vulnerable company sectors. Raising ethical standards in small companies is also an advantage for larger companies who acquire their goods and services. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation plays a leading part in these areas in G20 and OECD international anti-corruption forums.

Recent examples of action include the Italian G7 presidency seminar on measuring corruption and the adoption of a United Nations Convention against Corruption (“UNCAC”) resolution in sport presented by Italy as part of a coordinated effort in which, among others, the Ministry for Justice and the National Anti-Corruption Authority (ANAC) also contributed.

The measures to prevent and combat corruption, which are carried out by independent authorities in Italy, are in line with best international standards, and should be valued and made available on a widespread basis. The Italian private sector that operates abroad can contribute towards changing the face of “Made in Italy” to reflect the lawfulness and sustainability of the company models. We also have to ensure that there is a level playing field in Italy and abroad for Italian companies to offer their services. Combatting corruption will therefore also be a distinguishing quality of our international competitiveness and one of the “sustainable foreign policy” tools that can make the difference in the globalisation model that we want to help to construct.

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