To many small-business owners brought up in the affluent comforts of a free-market, democratic culture, corruption is something that happens over there but not here. From the policeman slipped banknotes to waive a speeding fine to the provincial governor whose price for a construction contract is a beach house and Mercedes, habitual bribery of public officials is a blight that helps keep the Third World in hopeless chaos and poverty, but from which the West is largely immune.

That is the sort of complacency against which the Society of British Aerospace Companies is warning manufacturers throughout the supply chain in the light of last month's conviction of the boss of a UK security consultancy for bribing Ugandan officials.

Every company doing business in corrupt parts of the world, even indirectly, is exposed to corruption's risk. Guarding against it is a matter not only of an ethical stance in the boardroom, but putting in place robust, practical measures to tell employees what is and is not permitted, and identify wrongdoing when it occurs.

The BAE Systems Saudi affair thrust defence industry ethics into the spotlight. But it is lower in the market - the "commission" to the middle-ranking civil servant - where many problems lurk. For the industry as a whole, the consequences of failing to take ethics seriously will be a tarnished public reputation. For a single company, it could mean jail and corporate oblivion.

Source: Flight International