Firms can play positive role in conflict zones

Ben Clayson, founder of Victvs.
Ben Clayson, founder of Victvs.
  • Help counter corruption, says founder
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Businesses can play a vital role in helping prevent conflict in other countries by countering corruption and fraudulent activities, according to the boss of an SME that helps firms access difficult foreign markets.

Ben Clayson, CEO and founder of Victvs, told The Yorkshire Post that there is a history of businesses ignoring their responsibilities in countering corruption and managing fraudulent activity.

Mr Clayson, who served in the Middle East while with the parachute regiment, said: “Part of our philosophy is that much conflict is fuelled by inequality and if we’re able to provide employment opportunities to people in these places, hopefully we’re contributing somewhat to the solution.

“There’s quite a clear history of businesses totally ignoring their responsibilities in terms of countering corruption and managing fraudulent activity.

“Businesses can play a really important role in establishing some balance and providing people with meaningful employment opportunities.

“There’s a really powerful and very positive role that businesses can play in local, national and international communities.”

Leeds-based Victvs was set up in 2014 by Mr Clayson after he left the army that year.

The firm employs 11 staff in Leeds and 17 staff in Scotland but also has a network of 1,000 people working abroad. This network provides inspections on facilities, assets and locations for clients. It also provides in-country support and helps deal with any cultural issues.

Firms looking to enter markets in post-conflict countries need to consider many different factors. There may be sanctions in place, certain products and services may be restricted and fraud risks may need to be considered.

Mr Clayson said: “There are considerations that businesses need to make when they are looking for those opportunities in these places but we can’t leave places like Iran out of the global economy indefinitely.

“That’s not a productive way to move forward. I do think there are opportunities there.”

Victvs is currently doing some work in Iran and Mr Clayson says that Libya and Iraq are interesting post-conflict countries that may provide commercial opportunities in the future.

When he was in the parachute regiment, Mr Clayson specialised in the Arabic language. Language is a key skill deployed at the firm’s office. “All of our staff are at least bilingual,” Mr Clayson said. “It’s a very important part of our business model.”

British businesses enjoy a “very positive reputation”, says Mr Clayson, due to their honesty and integrity. He added: “It’s really telling that global businesses look to the UK to provide them with a level of assurance.”

One of the difficulties companies looking to export face is bridging the cultural gap. However, Mr Clayson says overall different nations have more in common than people think.

He said: “My overarching reflection is that people from different cultural backgrounds actually have far more in common than they have differences.

“You tend to find wherever you are in the world that people want to be able to send their children to school, have a roof over their heads and take care of the people that are closest to them. If you focus on that as your start point in dealing with anyone from any culture regardless of how different it is to your own then it usually turns into a positive experience.”