• A South African businessman's perspective: Q&A with Graham Power

    Posted by Micah

    15 October, 2013

    We caught up with Graham Power, founder of Power Group of Companies and Unashamedly Ethical to find out why he's so passionate about fighting corruption in business. Unashamedly Ethical are a partner of EXPOSED.

    Q: What does corruption mean to you? What does it look like in South Africa?

    Corruption is a serious problem across the world – I view it like a sick cancer. It destroys every element of society, and we know from what we read in the Bible that God abhors corruption (Prov 11.1). South Africa is facing a few serious challenges when it comes to corruption. Our Transparency International ranking has shown that we are dropping steadily on the Corruption Perceptions Index – this shows us that public confidence in our government and business leaders is declining. We have recently had a number of significant scandals relating to corruption of public funds. What makes matters worse is that South Africa has one of the highest rates of inequality in the world. We need a just and efficient economy to be able to provide food security, health care, education and a stable economy. Thankfully we have campaigns such as EXPOSED and Unashamedly Ethical that are taking a lead in engaging with the Church, with business, and government around this issue. I know that we are going to see a turnaround!

    Q: How does corruption affect the poorest in your country?

    Corruption has a crippling effect on the poorest citizens of South Africa. As a result of the decades of apartheid in our country the majority of our population have not had access to adequate education, which in turn has meant that they are not able to get good jobs, adequate health care, even basic nutrition is a struggle for most of the poor in our nation. While there are programs to help to address these concerns we often hear of mismanagement of government funds for schools, clinics, food projects and infrastructure development. Of course another effect of corruption is that it breaks down public confidence in the justice system. We have seen many high profile politicians and business people avoiding prosecution or getting inadequate sentences for corrupt activities. I believe that God's desire is that every person should be equal before the law – one's value is not measured by wealth or influence.

    Q: Has your Christian faith shaped your response to the issue of corruption as a business man?

    My faith has played a central role in how I respond to corruption. I was deeply convicted of the need to engage in honest and fair business, so much so that I took a number of costly decisions in my own company to root out corrupt practices, and turned away from work that I knew was not honest. God spoke to me very clearly and told me to start a movement called 'Unashamedly Ethical' that would challenge people to make a clear commitment to ethics, values and clean living by signing the Unashamedly Ethical commitment form. We have tens of thousands of signatories in 95 countries around the world (these include individuals and groups, such as businesses, Churches, schools, political organisations etc.) 2 Chron 7.14 has been a strong guide for me, "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land'. I believe that if we make a stand against corruption and stand for Godly values and ethics we will see God healing our land. Of course our land begins with our family, our business, and our community.

    Q: Why do you think it's important that those in the global north and south stand together in the fight against corruption?

    Corruption is an issue that faces everyone in the world. While there are different forms of corruption (e.g., corrupt political leaders in some countries, corrupt business leaders in others, and even corrupt Churches in some places), the effects are the same – the poor suffer and injustice prevails. For some more developed countries corruption may be 'sanitized', i.e., large corporations may pay bribes to do business elsewhere in the world, or not declare their earnings honestly to avoid tax. In other settings it may be that a person bribes a police officer or a judge to squash a criminal charge. All of our lives are intricately linked to one another, what happens in one country has an effect on others around the world. The world has become much smaller as a result of global travel, international trade, and the effects of international treaties, trade accords and the laws and regulations that govern these things have real effects on all of the citizens of the world. Corruption is our shared problem, and together we are to take a stand and be the solution to this problem. God requires it of us.

    Q: What role does business have to play in the fight against corruption? How is Unashamedly Ethical working around these issues?

    Business is a critical element in the fight against corruption. In recent decades we have seen the prominence of multinational businesses across the world. In some contexts business is more powerful than the nation state. Unless business leaders understand that corrupt activities destroy lives they are unlikely to care for anything except the 'bottom line'. On a smaller scale, when local business leaders cut corners, inflate prices, collude with one another, or offer an inferior service or product, the results are felt directly in the pockets (and even the stomachs) of a nation's citizens. It is for this reason that Unashamedly Ethical has worked so hard to challenge business leaders to commit themselves to acting ethically. Business is key to turning around the scourge of corruption – I have often said that we will never deal with systemic poverty unless we deal with systemic corruption.

    Q: Have you seen any examples of Christians shining a light on corruption in business? 

    Yes, there are many wonderful examples of women and men in business who have take a brave stand for justice and ethics. In South Africa one of the greatest examples is Michelle Harding, who is a signatory of the Unashamedly Ethical campaign. After signing the Unashamedly Ethical pledge form she was strongly convicted to challenge all of the leaders in the pipe manufacturing industry to stop corrupt activities. She called all of them together and told them that their collusive activities needed to stop, and that her company would put an end to these practices. You can imagine that this took courage. She faced a great deal of scorn and harassment. However, when the Competition Commission of South Africa began to investigate the corruption in that industry they lauded her for her brave stand, and for the contribution she made in putting an end to corruption. When asked why she did it, she answered simply that her faith had been the cornerstone of her conviction for justice and ethics. What a strong testimony that is! You can watch her telling her story at an EXPOSED launch in Cape Town here

    Q: Will you be taking part in the 14-20 October EXPOSED week of global action?

    Yes, we are thankful to be part of the EXPOSED campaign! We have been working hard to get everyone that we know to sign the 'Global Call' to end corruption. In addition to that we have challenged all of our Unashamedly Ethical signatories, and particularly our regional and national community leaders to hold vigils between 14-20 October 2013. We want to show the world that God cares about this issue, and that we are faithful in our response. Right across South Africa, and even the world, Unashamedly Ethical members will be meeting in their Churches, their businesses, their schools, their communities and their homes to pray, read the Bible and witness to their communities around this issue. I want to encourage every person who reads this to sign the global call' and also arrange a vigil with their family, friends, colleagues and community during 14-20 October – God cares, so should we!

    Q: What would be your message to EXPOSED brothers and sisters around the world? 

    I want to encourage every Christian around the world to take a stand for ethics, values and clean living. We are mobilizing our Global Unashamedly Ethical community to do so – and we want you to join us! As a Christian business person I am sharing the business toolkit with colleagues and other businesses – there are great resources in there to equip us to make a practical stand for justice. You can find the toolkit on the EXPOSED website. You can start by signing the global petition to end corruption, and arranging a vigil during the week of 14-20 October.

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    This blog was originally published on the EXPOSED 2013 Campaign website.