Today’s global marketplace is full of challenges for multinationals in search of growth opportunities. With political uncertainty in many developed markets, and global economic growth continuing to slow, many ambitious corporates are looking to boost their profits by increasing their presence in emerging markets.

But although many of these markets offer great promise, they also bring greater bribery and corruption risk. We carried out this study – a follow-up to our 2016 Steering the Course report – to find out how companies are balancing the pressure for growth with increasing regulatory pressure. With more than half (53%) of companies making risky investments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America in order to meet growth targets, it’s clear that it is a hard balance to strike.

This study looks at how multinationals in Europe, the U.S., and Asia are dealing with an environment of increased complexity and intensity, a more globalized approach to compliance enforcement, and the rapid adoption of technology. It will help organizations to understand the challenges of anti-bribery and corruption (AB&C) compliance in 2020 and how these can be met without compromising corporate growth. The study focused on four high-risk sectors at the heart of global AB&C regulation and investigations: technology, media and telecommunications (TMT); life sciences and pharmaceuticals; energy, minerals and natural resources; and transportation, including aviation and automotive.

The stakes are higher than ever before. Stronger legislation is being introduced in many jurisdictions and, crucially, enforcement is increasing across the board, even in the developing world. In addition, there is more pressure from stakeholders in respect to investment activity in jurisdictions where corruption is prevalent. Reputational risk is becoming as important as pure legal risk. This has increased the level of due diligence being conducted, and there is a much lower level of tolerance towards historic wrongdoing within target companies and projects.

Organizations are rightly looking at preventative solutions rather than just reacting to issues. Stringent internal policing of bribery and corruption risk is critical, as well as having the right policies in place, and a strong corporate culture of compliance. Integration between bribery and corruption compliance and the business processes are key. For AB&C policies to work, they need to be embedded into the culture of an organization.

But do companies have the resources to ensure this integrated approach? Worryingly, this does not seem to be the case. Our 2016 study found that the vast majority of teams (88%) had seen a recent budget increase, while this year’s study finds that only 41% of compliance leaders have seen their AB&C budget grow over the last three years. This is despite the fact that compliance teams are seeing their workloads increase as other issues such as data privacy and environmental concerns also move up the agenda.

For widespread change to take place, AB&C compliance must be a business priority across the board. Multinationals need to implement and enforce robust AB&C policies and procedures, staying mindful of the serious long-term risks that come with non-compliance as they enter high-risk markets in pursuit of growth. Bribery and corruption activity is dynamic and fast-moving, meaning that effective AB&C compliance must be dynamic too.