The days of Latin America being run by corrupt elites are coming to an end, as transparency shines a light on their shadowy dealings. As societies and institutions become more accountable, customers will demand equality and fair treatment from the organizations they encounter.

Okay, our opening picture was on some level a lazy and oversimplified stereotype. But, as is often the case, it contains elements of truth. And we’ve already talked about how the focus of populism – that is, of popular anger and political agitation – is shifting away from material security and towards corruption. But to really understand that we need to break it down.

Rising concern over corruption is being driven by a growing middle class that feels insecure and has more to fear from corrupt elites.

Rising concern over corruption

The region saw huge growth in the middle class population in the decade up to 2011, growing from 16% to 27% in that time: that’s 55 million new members of the middle class (Pew Research, 2015). The key consequence? An enlarged class of affluent and politically conscious people that now have something to lose, and so have more to fear from ruling-class corruption than their poor counterparts, who are focused on material security.

And now that fear of corruption is being sharpened by the economic slowdown – Brazil, for example is enduring its worst recession in over a century – which is putting some middle class consumers in fear of sliding back into the poorer classes. The result is a perfect storm of conditions to fuel popular anger over corruption.

Meanwhile, rising connectivity will continue to empower the emerging middle class to see behind the walls of government and big business. While the region lags behind Asia when it comes to smartphone subscriptions, it is still forecast that the region will add 150 million new mobile internet subscribers by 2020, bringing the total to 450 million (GSMA, Sept 2016). And don’t forget that Brazil is the third largest population of Facebook users in the world and the fifth largest population of Twitter users (Statista, May 2016).

Ready to ride the truth that is transparency? Let’s look at some brands and startups already doing just that.

Innovation Examples

Featuring Red Bull, Sudacas, Vigie Aqui and more…

Take action

Obviously we don’t need to tell you the blindingly obvious: if you have a slush fund, then close it down. With the Odebrecht scandal ringing in the ears of politicians and prosecutors throughout the region, don’t expect any sympathy if you end up in a similar situation.

But we’ll be generous, and assume that you aren’t greasing palms to get ahead. In which case, you have a different (but no easier!) set of questions to ask: what information do my customers care about? What would give them confidence in our products or services? Do that, and you’ll have nothing to fear from transparency!

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