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Workshop-on-Measuring-Business-Impacts-on-Peoples-Well-being
I am from a directorate working on public policies relating to business and finance,
including competition, corporate governance and anti-bribery.
I thought I could share with you a few broad picture perspectives from this work
which could help to frame the discussion.
If I were a company representative, it would start by making the valid point that
companies already make a unique contribution to “well-being” in the course of their
normal business operations, by creating jobs, paying wages, providing multiple
choices to consumers, or financing technological advancements.
“CSR” has long been the first concept that came to mind when speaking of well-
being. CSR classically is seen as a plus that companies add on the top of their
normal business operations on a voluntary basis -- very much a sort of philanthropy
that contributes to well-being. Certainly this CSR philanthropic approach can bring
good.
But nothing of a scale comparable to what simply “doing no harm” can bring in
terms of well-being. Let me elaborate. The OECD modern approach to responsible
business conduct (RBC) is based on the idea that the responsibility of companies is
not to offer charity but to identify, prevent and mitigate risks of doing harm.
Just doing no harm will cause great benefits. The cost of companies’ negligence and
unscrupulous behavior is well documented in a developing country context, such as
sourcing from conflict minerals fueling human right abuses and terrorism or tragic
work accidents at the downstream end of the supply chain.
But the cost is not limited to that:
 Tax evasion steals public revenues that can be used to build schools and
hospitals – Think that tax avoidance collectively costs as much 240 billion US
dollars in lost revenues ─ or around 10% of global corporate tax revenues ─
every year!
 Cartels typically impose 30 per cent to 40 per cent price surcharges. Cartels have
been detected in the pharmaceutical industry, making healthcare less affordable
to poor people.
 Ordinary savers and pensioners are among the ultimate victims of misconduct in
the financial industry. As a proxy measure for the cost to society of bank
misconduct, the Financial Times estimated last year that $350 billion in penalties
has been paid by banks since the global financial crisis. FSB stated that banks’
misconduct can even potentially create a systemic risk on its own.
 OECD data find that on average, foreign bribes paid by companies prosecuted
equal 11 of the total transaction value and over a third of the profits. Again this
is money stolen from ordinary shareholders and workers.
To help companies avoid doing harm, the OECD has developed a number of tools.
The key one relates to risk-based due diligence guidance and its application tailored
to sectors (minerals, garment and sportswear, etc.). This guidance is derived from
the OECD Guidelines for MNEs and entails a step by step approach:
 Embed responsible business conduct into policy and management systems;
 Identify and assess adverse impacts;
 Prevent and mitigate adverse impacts;
 Track performance;
 Communicate;
 Provide for or co-operate in remediation when appropriate
Chris Laszlo already made the business case for sustainability defined as doing less
harm. “Not doing harm” as “good business” does not occur in a vacuum. In open
societies, domestic laws, government action, internationally-recognised standards
and other channels of communication of people’s expectations ultimately determine
the extent to which a particular company’s performance is sanctioned or rewarded.
Governments in particular have a key role to play in promoting observance of RBC.
The OECD sees this role to include:
 enact and enforce the laws and regulations that protect the public interest and
underpin RBC
 facilitate business, such as providing due diligence guidance, in meeting RBC
expectations and complying with obligations
 co-operate internally as well as externally with foreign governments and
stakeholders to ensure coherence and support of policies relevant to RBC
 recognise and support RBC which makes a positive contribution to economic,
environmental or social progress
 should exemplify RBC in their own role within the economy, including as owners
of enterprises.
To conclude I wish to highlight the importance of disclosure. We can see this again
from the recent work by the Task Force on Climate Disclosure convened by the FSB
which the OECD is member of. Disclosure has a key role to play for the company to
get feedback beyond the immediate circle of shareholders and to help to measure
risk and impact on well-being. It is an essential source of information for
practitioners concerned with developing well-being indicators in relation to business
– the subject of tomorrow’s discussions at the workshop.

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OECD Workshop: Measuring Business Impacts on People’s Well-being, Pierre Poret

  • 1. Workshop-on-Measuring-Business-Impacts-on-Peoples-Well-being I am from a directorate working on public policies relating to business and finance, including competition, corporate governance and anti-bribery. I thought I could share with you a few broad picture perspectives from this work which could help to frame the discussion. If I were a company representative, it would start by making the valid point that companies already make a unique contribution to “well-being” in the course of their normal business operations, by creating jobs, paying wages, providing multiple choices to consumers, or financing technological advancements. “CSR” has long been the first concept that came to mind when speaking of well- being. CSR classically is seen as a plus that companies add on the top of their normal business operations on a voluntary basis -- very much a sort of philanthropy that contributes to well-being. Certainly this CSR philanthropic approach can bring good. But nothing of a scale comparable to what simply “doing no harm” can bring in terms of well-being. Let me elaborate. The OECD modern approach to responsible business conduct (RBC) is based on the idea that the responsibility of companies is not to offer charity but to identify, prevent and mitigate risks of doing harm. Just doing no harm will cause great benefits. The cost of companies’ negligence and unscrupulous behavior is well documented in a developing country context, such as sourcing from conflict minerals fueling human right abuses and terrorism or tragic work accidents at the downstream end of the supply chain. But the cost is not limited to that:  Tax evasion steals public revenues that can be used to build schools and hospitals – Think that tax avoidance collectively costs as much 240 billion US
  • 2. dollars in lost revenues ─ or around 10% of global corporate tax revenues ─ every year!  Cartels typically impose 30 per cent to 40 per cent price surcharges. Cartels have been detected in the pharmaceutical industry, making healthcare less affordable to poor people.  Ordinary savers and pensioners are among the ultimate victims of misconduct in the financial industry. As a proxy measure for the cost to society of bank misconduct, the Financial Times estimated last year that $350 billion in penalties has been paid by banks since the global financial crisis. FSB stated that banks’ misconduct can even potentially create a systemic risk on its own.  OECD data find that on average, foreign bribes paid by companies prosecuted equal 11 of the total transaction value and over a third of the profits. Again this is money stolen from ordinary shareholders and workers. To help companies avoid doing harm, the OECD has developed a number of tools. The key one relates to risk-based due diligence guidance and its application tailored to sectors (minerals, garment and sportswear, etc.). This guidance is derived from the OECD Guidelines for MNEs and entails a step by step approach:  Embed responsible business conduct into policy and management systems;  Identify and assess adverse impacts;  Prevent and mitigate adverse impacts;  Track performance;  Communicate;  Provide for or co-operate in remediation when appropriate Chris Laszlo already made the business case for sustainability defined as doing less harm. “Not doing harm” as “good business” does not occur in a vacuum. In open societies, domestic laws, government action, internationally-recognised standards and other channels of communication of people’s expectations ultimately determine the extent to which a particular company’s performance is sanctioned or rewarded.
  • 3. Governments in particular have a key role to play in promoting observance of RBC. The OECD sees this role to include:  enact and enforce the laws and regulations that protect the public interest and underpin RBC  facilitate business, such as providing due diligence guidance, in meeting RBC expectations and complying with obligations  co-operate internally as well as externally with foreign governments and stakeholders to ensure coherence and support of policies relevant to RBC  recognise and support RBC which makes a positive contribution to economic, environmental or social progress  should exemplify RBC in their own role within the economy, including as owners of enterprises. To conclude I wish to highlight the importance of disclosure. We can see this again from the recent work by the Task Force on Climate Disclosure convened by the FSB which the OECD is member of. Disclosure has a key role to play for the company to get feedback beyond the immediate circle of shareholders and to help to measure risk and impact on well-being. It is an essential source of information for practitioners concerned with developing well-being indicators in relation to business – the subject of tomorrow’s discussions at the workshop.