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Navigating a business through turbulent war-torn countries

Clearly, responsible businesses operating around the world face challenges. Yet, it is important for established businesses to continue operating even in countries torn apart by conflict and political instability, opening employment opportunities and offering hope of normality for people.
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Indeed, there have been the Rolls Royce bribery allegations in Nigeria, the FIFA scandal, Transparency International condemnations of corruption levels in countries such as Libya or Sudan.

So what can businesses committed to both their presence in troubled countries and strong corporate governance practices across their global operations do to ensure the two do not come into conflict?

The question will be familiar to many managers, particularly with global businesses such as Rolls-Royce facing probes into their agents in other countries.

As the founder of, Nest Investments – a diversified international group engaged in financial services, property development and other activities – working across countries ranging from the UK and US to Iraq and Yemen, I’ve detailed the experience and offer some top tips for international firms.

(1) It starts from the top

Following a hysterical summer in UK politics, Theresa May emerged at the helm of Number 10 vowing to crack down on vested interests in the corporate world. The vow came along with the suggestion that workers should become a key part of the corporate governance framework.

As a group that values being ahead of the market, Nest Investments takes great satisfaction in bringing change from the top of the group and not just following the top leaders of the countries we operate in.

Putting employees on boards forms part of corporate governance, but why stop there? For every Nest Investments subsidiary board, there is a strong presence of independent individuals with diverse interests.

Employees’ and shareholders’ interests are undeniably crucial but there is also a real need for independent non-executive directors (NEDs), perhaps an academic working in a relevant field or a semi-retired business leader, who can provide real balance and a strong outside perspective.

It’s difficult to deny that large corporations have a significant effect on their local communities so, why not think about including the local community leader in crucial decisions.

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(2) Make sure your directors are up to the job

Good governance is not something that can be achieved through process alone. Even the best tried and tested structures in the world do not guarantee strong corporate governance. Look into investing more into your current and potential directors.

At Nest we have actively invested into our directors with formal governance training. We currently have three Chartered Directors Employee Board members from the Institute of Directors (IoD) in London and another in the pipeline; a rare occurrence in the west, let alone the Middle East.

It is important to recognise that these initiatives should be for a purpose and not just for show. Having qualified and trusted directors at the top of our companies ensures these measures are followed throughout our organisations, improving the effectiveness and values of our entire workforce.

Continue on the next page for the final three tips including details on how the business operated when Gaddafi was still in power.

Image: Shutterstock

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