Many businesses require a specific license to operate, be it an architecture firm, a hospital or a large restaurant. As CEO of dtac, I work in an industry where the licensing process is particularly stringent and touches on almost every aspect of our business, from the installation of base stations to the rights governing our use of Thailand’s airwaves. But the license I value the most is dtac’s social license. And it is my firm belief that fighting corruption is fundamental to dtac’s right to operate.
FREE AND INVALUABLE
What is a social license? Unlike government issued licenses, a social license to operate is not a piece of paper. It refers to acceptance of our company’s right to operate by all our stakeholders: the general public, our customers, the media, the government, our shareholders, our employees, etc. And in observance of the International Anti-Corruption Day 2020 on December 9, 2020, I wanted to share how dtac strives to maintain its social license to operate through strict policies against all forms of graft and influence.
For spectrum alone, dtac has committed to over 100 billion baht in payments to the Thai government in the last three years. But unlike spectrum licenses, social licenses are both free and invaluable. They are given in the shape of the public’s trust, and they are revoked when corporations abuse that trust. Thus, the price of a social license is responsible business.
In my homeland, in India, almost 70 per cent of consumers surveyed are willing to pay a premium for products and services from companies they trust most. According to the same Cognizant study, roughly 53 per cent of them will stop doing business with a company that has broken their trust.
Thailand is very similar. In a recent survey by Qualtrics, more than 75 per cent of consumers said they believe it’s important for brands to take care of their employees and customers; and that they must go above and beyond legal safety standards.
Return on trust is therefore emerging as the new digital economy imperative. It comes in addition to a business’s core services. In dtac’s case, the public doesn’t just want a smooth network experience. They also expect we stick to high standards on social, economic and ecological aspects.
One of the greatest threats to our social license to operate is corruption. Corruption damages everything it touches, leaving a trail of security breaches, wasted resources and ruined human capital. Its collateral damage is the trust of all stakeholders.
dtac has taken a multi-faceted approach to tackling corruption. We have a zero-tolerance policy that goes so far as to forbid the exchange of gifts as a business courtesy. The only exception is for low-value, branded items such as a promotional dtac t-shirt or plush doll.
The game of golf is a good example of how we apply this policy. Although golfing is considered a common business courtesy, dtac employees are forbidden from accepting free rounds of golf from our partners. If we are paying our way, rare exceptions can be made, provided they are approved by a chief executive such as myself. However, when a government official is expected to be on the green, that request is even less likely to be approved.
dtac also carefully selects business partners and monitors them by conducting integrity due diligence (IDD) and monitoring. They must adhere to our Supplier Conduct Principles, governing fair and safe labor practices in addition to business ethics and anti-corruption guidelines.
Every year, we also ask of our employees that they undergo training on our Code of Conduct. This allows them to reflect on practical dilemmas and on how they would react in such situations. Once they successfully complete the training, they can sign the Code of Conduct to renew their commitment to it. And for this year’s Anti-Corruption Day, we are expanding this with a new online training.
dtac’s efforts have been recognized by the Thai Institute of Directors, which granted dtac a certificate from the Private Sector Collective Action Coalition Against Corruption. In 2019, dtac’s certificate was renewed for three more years. But our greatest reward is our social license to operate.
At dtac, high performance is therefore not only about exceeding our goals and targets. It is also about gaining and maintaining our stakeholders’ trust. We want to be a trusted partner to our customers, shareholders, employees, business partners and the communities in which we operate.