Foreword from Isabelle De Vinck – BestInBrussels 2021
EPACA (the European Public Affairs Consultancies Association) is the representative trade association for professional public affairs consultancies active in the EU marketplace. We aim to lead by example, upholding the highest ethical and professional standards in our work, promoting more transparent decision-making, and acting as the go-to spokesperson for anyone in society who has questions about our activities.
Promoting high ethical and professional standards
Being an EPACA member is synonymous with the highest-quality of ethical conduct. This ethical standard is upheld by initiatives such as EPACA’s Code of Conduct, a self-regulatory instrument recognised by the European Commission and European Parliament. The signatories of the Code – our members – are all committed to abiding by it, acting in an honest, responsible, and courteous manner at all times. As the basis for EPACA members’ essential ‘licence to operate’, the Code is regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that it reflects best practices, responding to shifting social, economic, and political landscapes, as well as to new communications technologies.
As well as advocating for ethical lobbying standards, increased transparency, and the public affairs profession as a whole, EPACA has been at the forefront of promoting the professional standards for the Brussels public affairs sector. This commitment and effort culminated in the EPACA Charter, which adds to the Code of Conduct by combining ethics, professionalism, and corporate governance. The Charter sets EPACA members apart from other public affairs agencies, and demonstrates to clients the benefit of working with EPACA consultancies.
Defending public affairs professionals
Since EPACA’s founding, we have been working to alter the reputation of the public affairs profession, challenging the unfavourable stereotypes of lobbying through interviews, TV-appearances, op-eds, negotiations with EU officials, and appearances at events. EPACA actively shows the world that its members are professionals who have nothing to hide and can be proud of their work. We emphasise how our activities as public affairs professionals contribute to a healthy democratic and transparent process, acting as a link between the world of business, civil society, and European policy-makers.
The transparency debate has been central to EPACA’s work, and it has always been our fundamental guiding principle. Over recent years, we have been instrumental in representing public affairs consultancies with the wider European Transparency Initiative (ETI). All members of EPACA are committed to the highest standards of integrity and believe that those same standards should apply to all lobbyists who aim to influence EU decision-making processes – such as NGOs, PA firms, companies, trade associations. As such, EPACA has been actively advocating to expand the EU Transparency Register’s scope and make it mandatory for over two years. On 15 December 2020, Parliament, Council and Commission reached a final political agreement on a mandatory transparency register, concluding a process of inter-institutional negotiations which were launched in April 2018. The inclusion of the Council in the agreement is an important step towards enhancing transparency in EU policy-making, and EPACA is happy to see that progress has been made.
Advancing the professionalisation of the sector
Whilst in can be easy to talk about big values, EPACA wants to give its members the opportunity to integrate these values into every aspect of our professional lives.
To that end, and with a continuous focus on transparency, in 2020 we launched an online tool to educate our members’ newest staff on the do’s and don’ts prescribed by the EPACA Code of Conduct. This tutorial intends to bring written principles into practical acts and ensure the youngest generation builds an ethical approach to public affairs, and will be regularly updated in order to reflect the reality of the day. Similarly, we will be hosting an information session to ensure that our members have all the tools and understanding needed to properly update their registration and implement the requirements according to the new Mandatory Transparency Register guidelines.
As the PA sector is rapidly professionalising, at EPACA we also ensure our members are informed on the latest trends and debates, on a global level as well European – confronting our ideas with diverse ways of thinking and approaching public affairs. This is at the heart of events and workshops EPACA organises to enable sharing of insights on hot topics; creating opportunities to network and bring together a broader public of engaged professionals from the political and professional community.
Last but not least, with the EPACA Academy we provide a wide range of state-of-the-art trainings for consultants of all experience levels. EPACA provides both trainings on transparency-related topics and trainings focussed on skills. These skills-based workshops range from training junior consultants to build a career in public affairs consultancy to assisting the management in running a successful and innovative consultancy.
Why join EPACA?
In an age where transparency and ethics in the public arena are continuously under scrutiny, it is in the interest of public affairs consultancies to ensure that we and our employees abide by and are protected by accepted policies, codes, and regulations. EPACA is the only professional body at EU level representing the interests of public affairs consultancies. By becoming a member you will contribute to the promotion of our profession, and benefit from the opportunity to network with peers, confront ideas, and stay abreast of what matters to public affairs professionals in Brussels.