This past year has been a nightmare for Siemens. A vast corruption snarl has been exposed. As the corruption has turned out to be a long-term and methodical process, the waves have risen higher than expected. Some claim that corruption has become a way of doing business for Siemens, and that it has been the key to their success.
When the core of business activity leans on dishonesty, it restricts and ruins the chances of other businesses to operate in a normal way. As the right to free operation with honest methods has been suppressed by eliminating competition, bribery becomes a form of human rights and free speech offence.
Corruption and extension of the grey area are common in the business world, and Siemens is not the only company operating in apparently illegal ways. Many companies collect prosperity points through their operations in the grey area, and win admiration and respect regardless their actions. Dirty tricks have been covered up effectively. The doping inspectors have been avoided.
As the Siemens corruption has been exposed and the sorting out of dirty laundry has started, Siemens is offered a splendid chance for self-inspection and a change of course. A tragedy is always a new beginning, and a possibility to find a more spiritual and pure starting point.
Unfortunately messages from Turkmenistan tell otherwise. Siemens has supported and praised the Ruhnama book written by Turkmenistan's dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, and this support seems to have helped the company make lucrative business deals in the country. Reliable sources state that one of the Siemens business areas is to provide the Turkmen government with wiretaps. With the help of modern eavesdropping technology, the dictatorship has been able to jail many dissidents and opposition members. Many people who have fought for freedom of speech have received long prison sentences, and many have become the victims of torture. When questioned over these allegations, Siemens has not wanted to comment on their own role in the dispute over human rights offences
In spring 2007 Nokia and Siemens joined forces in the network sector. Two major corporations seek success, market position, and power. Hopefully the methods for achieving these goals will remain clean. Nokia has built its reputation as an honest and open player. When the Siemens corruption allegations started to unfold, for instance, Nokia took time out to investigate its partner's actions and history in more detail. Still, the business merger has gone forward inexorably.
During our investigations, we informed Nokia of the Siemens actions in Turkmenistan, but this was of no interest to them. We found this indifference confusing. They also didn't want to give any interviews regarding the problems of the merger. Openness had vanished. At their best, mergers of large corporations can bring new and positive practices into the corporate culture. Old operation modes are let go of, and the atmosphere becomes clearer. Hopefully this will also happen with Nokia Siemens Networks. It would be scary to think that the Siemens illness would infect and sink deep into Nokia's policy. It is also scary to think that the silence and withdrawal of many corporations would move to companies like Nokia. Can there still be found someone who wants to take responsibility for a corporation's ethical guidelines? Does a problem situation always mean silence – ignoring the trauma so it can never be healed?
We have also been able to read about positive actions of Nokia Siemens Networks in connection with the "Village Connection" project. Many remote villages in India obtain access to cheaper phone calls within their network, and therefore increase the quality of life. Of course they widen their clientele, but also bring equality into our surrounding world, which is always a good thing.
Openness however is the first step towards an honest, sustainable, and succefull enterprise. We encourage Nokia and Siemens together and separately to keep that in mind. May openness connect people and companies in the future. It can be the true key for success.