Can I invite a customer to a VIP event? Can I send this gift to a partner? Since the entry into force of the law of June 1st 2017 on transparency, the fight against corruption and the modernisation of economic life, known as the Sapin II law, many companies are legitimately asking themselves these questions.
In 2020, the AFA (French Anti-Corruption Agency) therefore published a guide of practical recommendations to assist companies in developing their internal policies on gifts and invitations, which remain common and normal practices in business life.
Today, we are presenting to you three quotes from this guide that demonstrate, when done methodically and transparently, that “inviting is not bribing” and that companies can continue to invite their customers, partners and prospects without this being considered as an attempt at corruption.
“Any person who is offered a gift or an invitation is called on to question him/herself”
With the implementation of the Sapin II law companies have the task of making their employees aware of the good practices to adopt. One of them is to question themselves about the gifts and invitations they receive.
Here are three questions that your customers should ask themselves as recipients of a gift to detect a possible act of corruption:
1. What is the context of this gift or invitation being offered?
2. How often am I invited by the organiser, or how often do I receive business gifts?
3. What is the value of the gift or invitation?
Purpose, frequency, value are the three questions to ask yourself systematically when there is an invitation to an event or a gift is received. The context in which these gifts are given must also be taken into account. Receiving a VIP invitation to an event during the awarding of a contract or during a call for tenders inevitably raises questions.
If your customers still have doubts, the AFA recommends several actions to take within their company:
- talk to your immediate supervisor or a person designated by the company to deal with this issue;
- create approval processes for events;
- complete an internal register to measure gifts and invitations received.
Training, internal processes and procedures, sound advice... find all the AFA recommendations in its guidelines for companies.
“The value of the gift or invitation alone is not sufficient to characterise an act of corruption”
In order to avoid all risky situations, some companies have made the acceptance of a solicitation conditional upon a maximum value that must not be exceeded. However,the mere value of the gift or invitation does not in itself constitute an act of corruption, as the French Anti-Corruption Agency reminds us. One of the areas proposed by the AFA is to define specific rules, on the one hand for sporting or cultural hospitality, and on the other hand for gifts. It is useful to define precise criteria for each category because they often have neither the same value nor the same objectives and are necessarily part of very different contexts or uses!
However, focusing on value has its limits. It can be difficult to determine exactly what it is, especially when it is an invitation to an event. So, as the AFA states in its recommendations, your customers' thinking should be more holistic: why are they invited and by whom? Do they feel obligated by accepting this invitation? Are they comfortable with the idea of accepting this proposal?
Considering the solicitation in its overall context is a good practice to adopt.
“Gifts and invitations are ordinary acts of business life”
In its recommendations guide, the AFA reminds us that gifts and invitations are ordinary acts of business life and do not, as such, constitute acts of corruption”.
Public relations are, by definition, a practice of inviting business contacts to a sporting or cultural event in special conditions. The AFA does not consider them to be any riskier than any other business approach, especially if you have determined your public relations strategy in advance. Clearly formulating quantifiable objectives and targeting the invited people justify your choices and thus remove any doubts because you are integrating these invitations into a global corporate strategy.
In short, if you have developed a clear and coherent public relations strategy... you are acting transparently!
To assist you in this process, Stade de France, which has been an expert in the implementation of public relations programmes for over 20 years, has summarised all the best practices to continue your strategy in compliance with the Sapin II law.