There's little doubt that bad actors have found opportunities in the pandemic, ranging from the sudden transition to vulnerable online platforms to the availability of funds earmarked for victims of the crisis. Here Matt Galvin, Global Vice President of Ethics & Compliance and NY Law Journal's Most Innovative Lawyer of 2020, shares how AB InBev has upped its reliance on technology to root out fraud and corruption, and what others can do to protect themselves during these unprecedented times.
Has the pandemic changed how AB InBev manages risk?
Yes and no. Travel restrictions mean we can no longer conduct in-person investigations of our operations to assess risks. However, we were well-prepared for the challenges brought on by the pandemic because of BrewRIGHT, our data analytics platform that helps us effectively predict, identify and prevent corrupt behaviors across 90 markets.
Was BrewRIGHT launched in response to COVID-19?
It was developed after South African Breweries (SAB) joined AB InBev in 2016. Our business was expanding into 25 more countries, making it the right time to transition from analog practices - working solely with lawyers and auditors assessing risks - to a digital approach. With BrewRIGHT we can analyze daily transactions, in real-time, across 50 countries using machine learning and artificial intelligence. With it we can make more informed decisions about the actions of our suppliers, vendors, partners and colleagues to reduce theft, bribery and money laundering practices, as a few examples.
What are some activities you're monitoring more closely because of the pandemic?
We prioritize the safety of our colleagues, so we always need to have the right personal protective equipment (PPE) available. The massive demand for those and other items led to the emergence of a new supply chain, so we're not participating in inflationary markets where people or governments are creating unfair advantages. We're also closely monitoring the risk profiles of new third-party vendors.
Are there increased risks with so many activities moving online?
Data privacy is paramount, so we've put extra measures in place to ensure we're protecting the information our consumers and partners share with us when they participate in things like our marketing campaigns and online ordering services.
The pandemic has hurt many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). How are we helping them?
AB InBev interacts with six million SMBs every week, including pubs, restaurants and small ‘mom and pop' shops. We believe it's our responsibility to help sustain these businesses that are vital to the health of our local communities. Throughout the pandemic, we've provided technologies, digital tools and voucher programs to sustain their businesses, improve efficiencies and protect them from falling victim to harmful, unethical practices.
What can other companies and organizations do to better manage risks?
I'd start by building an integrated ethics and compliance team. Five years ago our team was all lawyers with one forensic account. Now we're 70% lawyers, 20% data scientists and 10% forensic accountants. We're much more creative and effective in how we solve problems now.
Do you recommend every company invest in a platform like BrewRIGHT?
I believe building an analytics platform that only shells back your own data is a mistake. The real value is found through integration and access to information from a collective. That's the future and the reason we launched the BrewRIGHT Consortium earlier this year. It's a shared digital platform, where companies and organizations can securely access and learn from each other - without revealing underlying company data - to help participants better detect and protect against corruption.
Do you foresee any long-term changes in the ongoing battle against corruption?
I think the BrewRIGHT Consortium is going to make a positive impact on the whole supplier ecosystem. Historically, to minimize risks, a large company would consolidate its suppliers with a few big providers who came with assurances and processes to minimize risk. But that's terrible for the world, it consolidates wealth and exacerbates corruption. With the consortium we open the door for numerous larger companies to safely work with smaller businesses or solo practitioners who have proven to meet high ethical standards. I believe together we can spread the wealth across communities, and safely give visibility to corruption and risk for businesses of any size.
To learn more about the BrewRIGHT Consortium and how to join, contact Matt Galvin on LinkedIn.