Ethical lobbying is transparent and matter-of-fact
Lobbying is an integral part of democracy. It involves, however, a risk of corruption.
Lobbying, also referred to as interest representation, is unofficial negotiation through which the lobbyist aims to influence societal decision-making. It is targeted at both decision-makers and public officials preparing the decisions.
In addition to various interest organisations, communication agencies specialised in lobbying engage in these activities. There are also many independent actors in the field.
Lobbying is an important part of open and pluralistic democracy: decision-makers cannot be experts in all fields, which is why they need the information conveyed to them by lobbyists about the different impacts and aspects of the matters being prepared. The field does, however, have its risks. Lobbying can be associated with corruption, and it may have too much influence on legislation in some cases.
The dialogue between decision-makers and lobbyists must be open and transparent. Lobbying must not involve undue influence.
Good practices prevent corruption
Although there is no legislation regulating lobbying in Finland, many companies and organisations have their own ethical guidelines concerning lobbying that their employees or members must observe.
From the perspective of anti-corruption efforts, it is important to remember the following two rules of thumb:
Lobbying is not regulated in Finland
For the time being, there is no legislation governing lobbying in Finland. Lobbyists are not required to register, and communication between them and public officials does not need to be reported anywhere.
The possibility of regulating lobbying activities is constantly being discussed, because it would make decision-making processes more transparent and improve public trust towards both decision-makers and lobbyists. Regulation would also help ensure that different parties have equal opportunities to exert influence and prevent lobbyists from pressuring decision-makers.
In 2018, a Government analysis, assessment and research project studied international models for a register of lobbyists. The objective was to produce information on the register of lobbyists as a form of regulating lobbying activities and a recommendation on what kind of regulation would best work in Finland.
According to the European Commission, it is desirable that lobbying activities be regulated, be it then through legislation or through voluntary registration of lobbyists.
ProCom, a Finnish organisation for professionals in the field of communications, has a voluntary lobbyist register (in Finnish). It is intended for members of the organisation.
Transparency register for EU lobbyists
The European Union has a transparency register that was set up in 2011. For the time being, registration is voluntary, but in practice almost all key parties engaged in lobbying in the EU have registered themselves.
In the transparency register, anyone can see
- what interests are being promoted at EU level
- who are engaged in lobbying activities and on whose behalf
- how much money is being spent for lobbying.
Through the transparency register, it is also possible to submit an alert or a complaint about possible non-compliance with the Code of Conduct.
Read more about lobbying