"Sustainability is about survival," says Siemens general counsel Peter Solmssen, who argues that global cooperation is key to winning the fight...
Siemens is well versed in the high cost of corruption: in 2008, following a string of high-profile bribery scandals, it agreed to a record $1.6bn legal settlement with American and European authorities. Solmssen, in fact, was part of the group Siemens CEO Peter Löscher brought in to help clean up the company's institutional culture.
Löscher's team quickly went to work. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Löscher explained how – in a few months – the company cleaned house, replacing 80% of its top-tier executives, 70% of its second tier and 40% of its third tier.
But Siemens' culture of corruption extended far beyond the executive suite. As one German investigator later put it, "bribery was Siemens' business model". In fact, the company even had a handy accounting euphemism for its bribes: "nützliche Aufwendungen," or "useful money".
Given the corruption that permeated Siemens, it was clear that Löscher's team needed to fundamentally change the culture of the firm. The trouble was, the employees who knew the most about the company's bribery culture and methods were the same ones who were actually involved in it. Changing Siemens' way of doing business would require enlisting help from the very employees who had the most to lose.
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