28. February 2023

Presenting the OECD Toolkit for raising awareness and preventing corruption in SMEs

Mockup of OECD toolkit for SMEs

In this guest blog, France Chain and Vitor Geromel of the OECD Anti-Corruption Division present the new OECD Toolkit for raising awareness and preventing corruption in SMEs.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of many countries’ economies. They represent 99 percent of all businesses in the OECD area, generating about 60 percent of employment and totalling between 50 and 60 percent of value added. SMEs are key for delivering sustainable and inclusive economic growth, and are increasingly expanding their activities beyond borders.

However, with generally fewer resources than larger companies and often operating in difficult industrial or geographical environments, SMEs are particularly at risk of corruption and foreign bribery.

This combination of significant contribution to the global economy and heightened vulnerability to corruption has prompted governments, international and civil society organisations, and other private- sector stakeholders to pay greater attention to the specific situation of SMEs.

The OECD Working Group on Bribery (WGB) – composed of the 44 countries Party to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention – has repeatedly highlighted in its country monitoring reports the importance and the constant challenge for government authorities to reach out to SMEs, to encourage and support corruption prevention and compliance efforts.

With the objective of assisting governments and other relevant stakeholders, the OECD published its Toolkit for raising awareness and preventing corruption in SMEs.

Developed with the support of the Government of Sweden, and grounded on the OECD Anti-Bribery standards, in particular the 2021 OECD Anti-Bribery Recommendation, the Toolkit builds upon extensive background research and interviews with specialists from all over the world. It provides examples and case studies of successful tools which government authorities, international organisations, business and civil society organisations, professional associations, and large companies have adopted to assist SMEs in understanding their risk exposure and implementing adequate anti-corruption measures.

A collective responsibility

Starting with the “who”, the introductory chapter identifies the stakeholders who are best placed to support SMEs in strengthening their anti-corruption defences:

  • Government authorities
  • International organisations
  • Business organisations
  • Professional associations
  • Large companies
  • Civil society organisations

The Toolkit further points to multi-stakeholder collaboration and Collective Action as essential tools to effectively raise awareness and assist businesses, in particular SMEs, in preventing and combating corruption.

Successful initiatives around the world have demonstrated that collaborative multi-stakeholder approaches allow for tailor-made, sector specific awareness raising strategies. Furthermore, by spreading the costs of implementing anti-corruption measures across multiple stakeholders, they avoid overburdening SMEs.

On this topic, the 2021 OECD Anti-Bribery Recommendation is the first key international standard to explicitly endorse the use of Collective Action and public-private partnerships to promote anti-corruption standards.

Key steps in reaching out to SMEs

Moving from the “who” to the “how”, the Toolkit identifies preliminary steps that government authorities and other private and civil society stakeholders can take to promote effective anti-corruption awareness-raising strategies targeting SMEs, including:

  • Convincing SMEs that compliance is good for business by developing and disseminating information demonstrating that compliance positively impacts business results.
  • Improving public transparency and digitalisation, since public-sector transparency, effective regulation and digitalisation can serve as powerful deterrents to corruption.
  • Developing smarter anti-corruption compliance guidance and requirements for SMEs by providing recommendations on how SMEs can tailor compliance policies to their risks and constraints.
  • Mapping targeted businesses, with a view to better understanding the number of companies impacted, their size, corporate structure and operating markets.
  • Promoting public consultations, by inviting targeted businesses to discuss their views and needs in adopting compliance measures.
  • Considering SMEs’ diversity, with a view to tailoring awareness-raising strategies, taking into consideration factors such as the industry, sector and size of SMEs, and avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Continuously reviewing their strategy and initiatives to ensure they remain relevant and appropriate.

The 10 tools in the Toolkit

Having set the scene on the “who” and “how”, the OECD Toolkit proposes a list of 10 practical tools, with successful case examples and indications of the relevant stakeholder which should be involved. These tools can be adapted to the specificities of the region, industry or market. They can be used in an isolated or combined manner, depending on the level of risk and awareness in the targeted SMEs.

The infographic below presents the 10 tools:

Corruption is a moving target, and we all have a role to play in fighting it. With these 10 tools, the OECD Toolkit is an essential instrument for those wishing to promote anti-corruption standards among SMEs in their markets and communities.

It is also a call for collaborative and Collective Action to foster better market practices and an ethical business culture for companies, including SMEs, across the world. The OECD stands ready to continue its role as a key player in this global dialogue.

To find out more

The OECD invites all interested parties to access and use the Toolkit when building their awareness-raising strategies targeted at SMEs. The OECD Toolkit and the highlights pamphlet are available for free at:

The OECD Toolkit for raising awareness and preventing corruption in SMEs was conceived to be a living document. With the support of governments as well as private sector and civil society organisations, the OECD hopes to continue feeding and expanding the list of successful initiatives in future years.

For any questions regarding the OECD Toolkit, please contact France Chain (france.chain@oecd.org) and Vitor Gerome (vitor.geromel@oecd.org).