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SINTEF emerges strengthened from episode with Iran

SINTEF still has something to learn about doing business in foreign cultures, but the experience we have gained will help to make our company even stronger in the future.

This was the conclusion of the Board of SINTEF Petroleum Research AS, which today discussed an external report that evaluated how the Board and company management dealt with SINTEF Petroleum Research’s involvement in Iran. The report was drawn up by the Schjødt law firm, and was commissioned by SINTEF Petroleum Research.

The Schjødt report did not deal with potential criminal law aspects of the case, which are currently being investigated by the Economic Crime Unit, but concentrated exclusively on SINTEF Petroleum Research’s internal procedures.

“As an organisation SINTEF has very high standards of integrity. We know our research ethics, but we do not have sufficient training in international business in such a difficult area as the Mid-East”, says SINTEF Group President Unni Steinsmo.

“Until recently, SINTEF operated for the most part in the Norwegian and western contract research markets. In the course of the past few years we have implemented an ambitious strategy of internationalisation which is absolutely essential if we are to grow in the future. However, we lacked the experience and routines we needed to tackle the greater risks involved in such a strategy, and unfortunately this led us to take some false steps.

Unni Steinsmo emphasises that SINTEF has learned from the Iran affair, and that the organisation is already much better equipped to deal with the risks involved in internationalisation. New measures include:

  • Better routines and a clearer policy for signing international contracts, including agent’s agreements.
  • A more clearly defined attitude to ethics within the organisation by involving all SINTEF staff in the job of better equipping them to tackle the various dilemmas that they encounter in the daily work.
  • Setting up an ethics council to which employees can turn in problematic cases.
  • Stronger staff functions in financial control, juridical competence, quality assurance and ICT.

“It is a fact that SINTEF has signed contracts that are not in accordance with our ethical guidelines, and that have led to the situation that we are now being investigated by the Economic Crime Unit. This is a serious situation for SINTEF to find itself in. Irrespective of the conclusions of the Economic Crime Unit, we in SINTEF are not happy with the way in which we handled the Iran contracts”, says SINTEF Group President Unni Steinsmo.