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Csr Codes, Guidelines and ISO 26,000 articles 2011-12

  1. 1. Published on Ethical Corporation ( of conduct and standards: the pick of the bunchPosted by [1] on Feb 21, 2011Deborah Leipziger has picked her top ten codes and standards. In the first of a two-part report, hereshe gives her views on fiveWhile there are a wide range of codes and standards in the field of corporate responsibility, here arefive of my personal top ten of the most influential initiatives. The UN Global Compact Global Reporting Initiative AA1000 Series OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises Social Accountability 8000The UN Global Compact Description:Launched in 2000, the Compact addresses the environment, human rights, workers rights andcorruption. The Global Compact unites global principles with local networks to create fluid networks.With more than 80 regional and national sub-networks, the UN Global Compact is a globalmulti-stakeholder, multi-issue network. As a voluntary initiative, the Global Compact convenes allkey social actors: companies, labour, civil-society organisations and governments.Unique selling points: With its local networks, the Global Compact operates at many levels:globally, regionally and locally. The UN Global Compact benefits from the engagement of several UNbodies, including the International Labour Organisation (ILO), The UN Development Programme(UNDP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Office of the High Commissioner for HumanRights and the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).The UN Global Compact differs from nearly all other corporate responsibility initiatives in that itseeks to promote development through good corporate citizenship. By focusing on development, thecompact provides a new direction for corporate responsibility, giving voice to the poor and tacklingsuch issues as the digital divide and HIV/Aids.Strengths and weaknesses: No other CR initiative has the moral authority and convening powerof the UN secretary-general. With these assets, the Global Compact has succeeded in promotingcorporate responsibility broadly through networks around the world.The compact has also mobilised an impressive database of corporate activities on corporateresponsibility. The Global Compact is a truly global initiative, with significant participation fromcompanies in the south. If the principles of the Global Compact lack the specificity of SA8000 andother initiatives it is because they were designed to meet the needs of a very global and diverseconstituency of governments and businesses.The key difference is that the compact was never intended to supplant any regulatory initiatives.Instead it complements them. The Global Compact office does not have the mandate or theresources to monitor company activity.The general nature of the principles can be perceived as both a strength and a weakness. It is easierto attract a critical mass of companies with general principles than with highly specialised criteria.Moreover, general principles make it easier for companies to integrate the compact into their owninternal codes or policies.By developing a general standard, and by forging alliances with highly specialised initiatives such as
  2. 2. Published on Ethical Corporation ( and SA8000, the compact is able to build critical mass. The Global Compact has been criticisedfor lacking an assurance mechanism.How it has evolved: Since its inception, the Global Compact hasgrown dramatically to include 7,700 corporate participants withnetworks in 80 countries. In 2008, alone, the Global Compact grewby 30%. [2]/Global Reporting Initiative Description: The Global Reporting Initiative has pioneered sustainability reporting, providing guidelines that serveas a framework for economic, social and environmental reporting. In 2006, GRI launched the G3Guidelines. Although the GRI Guidelines are not a code of conduct, a management system orstandard, they are extremely useful to companies working on code implementation.The guidelines promote the communication of actions taken to improve economic, environmentaland social performance; the outcome of such actions; and future strategies for improvement. The G3Guidelines are structured in two parts.Part 1 includes principles to define report content: materiality, stakeholder inclusiveness,sustainability context, and completeness and guidance on how to set boundaries for the report.Part 2 includes standard disclosures, strategy and profile, management approach and performanceindicators.Unique selling point: The GRI Guidelines are the product of an intensive, multi-stakeholderconsultation process, involving thousands of NGOs, companies, business groups, trade unions, andaccountancy organisations. GRI has developed sector-specific guidelines for a wide range of sectors,including financial services, electric utilities, mining and metals, food processing and NGOs.Strengths and weaknesses: GRI encourages companies to set targets and then to report onwhether or not those targets have been met. If the company has not met its targets, it should givereasons. By encouraging companies to set and report on targets, stakeholders have standards towhich they can hold the company accountable.Many companies find the large number of indicators within the GRI framework daunting. Reportingcan also be expensive, especially for large organisations.Progress to date: Thousands of companies in over 60 countriesissue reports which follow the GRI Guidelines. GRI is to becommended for its cooperative work with a wide range oforganisations, including the Carbon Disclosure Project and others. [3]/AA1000 series Description: Launched in 1999 by AccountAbility, the AA1000 Series is designed toassist companies, stakeholders, auditors, consultants and standard-setting bodies. AA1000 can beused in two ways: on its own or in conjunction with other corporate responsibility standards.It provides a road map for companies on key CR issues, explaining points of divergence andconvergence with other major standards. Founded in 1995, AccountAbility is a global, organisationset up to promote accountability innovation for sustainable development (though it is in the midst ofa controversial re-structuring).The AA1000 Series has as its premise three principles: inclusivity, materiality and responsiveness.The AA1000 Series includes three standards: AA1000APS Accountability Principles AA1000ASAssurance Standard AA1000SES Stakeholder Engagement StandardUnique selling point: The AA1000 Principles are compatible with the UN Global Compact, the GRIand ISO 26000. The AA1000 Assurance Standard can be used with audits of factory compliance withlabour standards and carbon emissions.
  3. 3. Published on Ethical Corporation ( and weaknesses: The AA1000 Series provides an overarching framework for corporateresponsibility. The AA1000 Assurance Standard (a part of the series) is designed to cover assuranceprocesses across the spectrum of sustainability issues.It is accessible on-line at no cost. The accessibility of the standard is important, as it facilitatesconsultation with stakeholders. The consultation process for the AA1000 Assurance Standard hasbeen thorough, benefiting from input into a wide range of organisations. A major challenge facingthe field of assurance will be to build capacity among assurance providers.Progress to date: The AA1000 series is used by a wide range oforganisations, including multinational companies, small and mediumsized enterprises, governments and civil society. [4]OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises Description:The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises feature recommendations from governments tocompanies. Unique among corporate responsibility tools in its comprehensive nature, the OECDguidelines address all aspects of corporate behaviour, from taxation and competition to consumerinterests and science and technology.The guidelines are voluntary and non-binding. To fully understand the objectives of the guidelines, itis necessary to review the role of OCED. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation andDevelopment promotes policies that contribute to economic growth and development.Founded in 1961, OECD has made a significant contribution to corporate social responsibility bydeveloping CR-related principles, including the OECD Principles of Corporate Governance and theOECD Convention on Combating Bribery.Unique selling points: The OECD guidelines are among the most comprehensive of CR tools,addressing a range of issues unparalleled in any single CR instrument. The guidelines are a map forcompanies of the type of CR issues they may encounter. OECD requires each member state toappoint a National Contact Point (NCP) to promote the guidelines. The NCPs provide localinfrastructure for the guidelines.Strengths and weaknesses: The guidelines encourage companies to observe standards ofemployment and industrial relations not less favourable than those observed by comparableemployers in the host country.In many regions, observance of local norms would be insufficient to meet basic standards set by theInternational Labour Organisation. The ILO participated in the negotiations and views the Guidelinesas being compatible with its own conventions and declarations.The words not less favourable than mean that companies are asked to observe the otherrecommendations on human rights, core labour standards, and supply chain codes.Progress to date: The 42 governments that adhere to the guidelines havebegun work to update the guidelines. The last revision occurred in 2000. [5]Social Accountability 8000 Description:Social Accountability 8000 is a global and verifiable standard designed to make workplaces morehumane. The standard combines key elements of the ILO conventions with the managementsystems of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). SA8000 is a certificationstandard developed, overseen and updated through multi-stakeholder dialogue with trade unions,companies, NGOs and academics.Unique selling point: SA8000s management systems differentiate the standard from most codesof conduct and statements of intent. Its requirement of the creation of management systems
  4. 4. Published on Ethical Corporation ( ensures that social issues are integrated into all aspects of company policy and day-to-day operations. Management systems include the need for training programmes, communications, elected representatives, management reviews, control of suppliers, and planning and policies, among others. Strengths and weaknesses: SA8000 applies to companies around the world and across industries, serving as a common benchmark that ensures basic rights are respected within the supply chain of companies and industries. Social Accountability International, which developed SA8000, has implemented extensive training programmes and capacity building efforts around the world. SA8000 has been criticised for being too rigorous and by others for being too weak. Like other standards that include management systems, SA8000 is biased towards companies that have already established management systems. As such, it may be easier for large companies to implement SA8000 than for smaller companies. Progress to date: As of June 2010, there are 2,258 workplaces certified to SA8000 in 60 countries and 66 industries. Over 1.3 million workers are employed in facilities which have received SA8000 certification. [6]/ In part two, I will examine the following.   Universal Declaration of Human Rights  ILO Tripartite Declaration  OECD Convention for Combating Bribery  The Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code, and the  Ceres Principles Deborah Leipziger is the author of The Corporate Responsibility Code Book. EC readers can save 40% on the fully revised second edition here: [7] by using the discount code EC4CODE at the checkout.   Links: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] by TCPDF (
  5. 5. Published on Ethical Corporation ( of conduct and standards: the top ten, part IIPosted by [1] on Jun 27, 2011Deborah Leipziger has picked her top ten codes and standards. In the second of a two-part report,here she analyses another fiveIn the first [2] part of my report, I analysed the following international codes of conduct andstandards. The UN Global Compact Global Reporting Initiative AA1000 Series OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises Social Accountability 8000Here, I will examine the other five that make up my top ten: Universal Declaration of Human Rights ILO Tripartite Declaration OECD Convention for Combating Bribery The Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code Ceres PrinciplesUniversal Declaration of Human Rights Description: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is one of the most significant documentsever drafted. It enshrines the concept of human rights broadly, to include not only political rights butalso social and economic rights. Universally accepted, the UDHR has formed the basis of manyconstitutions around the world. Moreover, the UDHR is cited in many corporate responsibility codesand principles.Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, the UDHR was unanimously adopted by the then 48member states of the United Nations. In 1993, 171 governments adopted the Vienna Declarationwhich affirms support for the UDHR. The declaration is not legally binding but is accepted ascustomary law. The UDHR is elaborated on in two UN international covenants – one on civil andpolitical rights and one on social, economic and cultural rights. These two covenants are binding forstates that decide to become a party to these treaties.Unique selling point: One of the greatest strengths of the UDHR is its acceptance around the worldas a cornerstone of human rights. The clarity of its composition is also a great strength.Strengths and weaknesses: Despite the fact that it is already over a half century old, the UDHRremains as relevant in 2010 as it was in 1948. However, it is important to remember that thedrafters of the UDHR were predominantly of western background, leading some critics to argue thatthe concept of human rights is a “western” notion. To refute this argument, it is worth noting thatvery few governments have filed significant reservations on any human right treaties (which arebased on the UDHR) they have ratified. The UDHR has also been criticised for its lack of focus onminorities and indigenous peoples. However subsequent UN documents have compensated for thisoversight. The declaration is not easily translatable into corporate action but is a starting point forcompanies seeking to commit to human rights principles.
  6. 6. Published on Ethical Corporation ( to date: One of the challenges in the human rights field is to translate the UDHR [3] intobusiness principles. Social and economic rights are being translated into business codes but civil andpolitical rights are rarely included in business principles. The Danish Centre on Human Rights hasmade significant progress in translating the articles of the UDHR into business principles with thesupport of companies and stakeholders.ILO Tripartite DeclarationDescription: Launched in 1977, the International Labour Organisation’s Tripartite Declaration ofPrinciples concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy is directed towards companies,governments, trade unions and employer organisations. The declaration refers to 28 ILOconventions, and as many recommendations, that were negotiated within a multilateral framework.Unique selling point: The Tripartite Declaration provides a very useful reference for governmentsas well as companies on their role in promoting corporate responsibility as well as social andeconomic development.Strengths and weaknesses: The declaration includes procedures for examining disputes that arise inits implementation. A government or trade union can seek to establish whether or not the behaviourof a company is in accordance with the declaration. As for the OECD Guidelines for MultinationalEnterprises, companies are encouraged to observe standards comparable to the host country inwhich they operate. For many parts of the developing world, the observance of local norms could stillinvolve poor working conditions.Progress to date: The declaration has had a significant impact on corporate responsibility codesand standards, many of which draw on ILO [4] conventions.OECD Convention for Combating BriberyDescription: Launched in 1999, the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign PublicOfficials in International Business Transactions is a landmark agreement, defining key terms anddeveloping a legal framework for addressing bribery. The convention applies to bribery of foreignofficials anywhere, regardless of where the incident takes place.The convention criminalises offering and/or paying bribes, but not soliciting and/or accepting bribes.It covers only the bribery of foreign officials and not private-to-private corruption. The conventionallows “small facilitation payments” to low-ranking officials. Unique selling point: The OECD works with a wide range of regional programmes to combatbribery.Strengths and weaknesses: Despite the OECD’s wide-spread co-operation with regional programmes,the corruption of public officials continues. According to Transparency International’s Bribe PayersIndex, local firms are more likely to bribe government officials than multinational companies are. Theconvention does not address bribery of officials by local business and it has been criticised for failingto capture the full extent of bribery. For example, it does not cover bribery of private-sectoremployees. Moreover, it fails to address the bribery of political parties and political candidates. Theconvention provides no protection for whistle-blowers who uncover corruption, which can lead toreluctance to disclose incidents of bribery. Progress to date: The convention has been ratified by all 33 members of the OECD [5] and by agrowing number of non-members as well. 
  7. 7. Published on Ethical Corporation ( Series Description: Launched in 1999, the AA1000 Series is designed to assist companies, stakeholders,auditors, consultants and standard-setting bodies. AA1000 can be used in two ways: on its own or inconjunction with other corporate responsibility standards. It provides a road map for companies onkey CR issues, explaining points of divergence and convergence with other major standards. The AA1000 Series has been developed and established by AccountAbility, and has as its premisethree principles: inclusivity, materiality and responsiveness. The AA1000 Series includes three standards:AA1000APS Accountability PrinciplesAA1000AS Assurance StandardAA1000SES Stakeholder Engagement Standard  Unique selling point: The AA1000 Principles are compatible with the UN Global Compact, the GRIand ISO 26000. The AA1000 Assurance Standard can be used with audits of factory compliance withlabour standards and carbon emissions. Strengths and weaknesses: The AA1000 Series provides an overarching framework for corporateresponsibility. The AA1000 Assurance Standard (a part of the series) is designed to cover assuranceprocesses across the spectrum of sustainability issues. It is accessible online at no cost. Theaccessibility of the standard is important, as it facilitates consultation with stakeholders. Theconsultation process for the AA1000 Assurance Standard has been thorough, benefiting from inputinto a wide range of organisations. A major challenge facing the field of assurance will be to buildcapacity among assurance providers.Progress to date: The AA1000 [6] series is used by a wide range of organisations, includingmultinational companies, small and medium sized enterprises, governments and civil society.The Ethical Trading InitiativeDescription: The Ethical Trading Initiative seeks to improve the lives of workers in global supplychains by creating a forum to identify and promote good practice in the implementation of codes ofconduct. The ETI is tripartite, consisting of membership groups from three sectors: companies, NGOsand trade unions. It is funded by the UK government’s Department for International Developmentand from membership fees.Unique selling points: The ETI is interested in sharing the lessons learned from various differentapproaches to monitoring, verification and other aspects of code implementation. In pursuit of itsaims, ETI conducts experimental projects into aspects of code implementation, hosts seminars,events and conferences and has a research and publications programme.Strengths and weaknesses: Company members report that the ETI provides a valuable forum in
  8. 8. Published on Ethical Corporation ( to engage trade unions and NGOs. In addition, the ETI catalyses learning by sharing goodpractice and networking while providing a peer review of corporate progress and co-operation ratherthan competition.The forging of new partnerships is also an important priority for the ETI and it works in partnershipwith industry stakeholders in all its experimental work. For example, in the South African province ofWestern Cape, the ETI has helped to establish the Ethical Trading Forum, which brings togetherproducers, trade unions, NGOs and government to promote better working conditions within the fieldof agriculture.One of the major lessons learned through ETI consultations is the degree of complexity andambiguity within the field. As the pilot studies replicate the ETI tripartite model they are forgingimportant alliances. However, working within the tripartite structure can be time-consuming andexpensive.Progress to date: The ETI’s [7] members include companies with a combined turnover of over£107bn, from a wide range of sectors, including supermarkets, fashion retailers, department storesand stone sourcing companies, as well as major suppliers to retailers of food and drink, flowers,clothing, shoes, home, promotional and other products. Ceres PrinciplesDescription: The ten Ceres Principles cover the major environmental concerns facing companies,including energy conservation, reduction and disposal of waste, and risk reduction. Originally knownas the Valdez Principles, they were launched in 1989 as a response to the environmental disaster ofthe Exxon Valdez oil tanker.Endorsing companies must commit publicly to the principles, address issues raised by the Ceresnetwork and other stakeholders and report annually on their progress in meeting the CeresPrinciples. Ceres is a coalition of more than 80 companies, with Sunoco being the first Fortune 500signatory, joining in 1993. Coca-Cola, the Ford Motor Company, General Motors and Polaroid areamong some of the most well-known companies that have endorsed the principles.Unique selling point: One of the greatest strengths of the Ceres Principles is the degree to whichCeres engages with companies in on-going dialogue. Unlike the majority of the other principles andstandards featured here, a company cannot unilaterally decide to adopt the Ceres Principles.Endorsing the principles is a two-way process which includes both the commitment of the companyand the acceptance of the board of directors of Ceres.Strengths and weaknesses: The Ceres Principles are among the few initiatives profiled in thisreport that include a clause to protect whistle-blowers. This is very important to safeguard thoseemployees who disclose damaging information from suffering retaliation for going public.Ceres is a US-based organisation addressing global issues. It would be a challenge for anorganisation such as Ceres to expand globally and still maintain its cohesive network and sense oftrust. Ceres maintains its US roots and identity, but with a global reporting mechanism.Progress to date: There are nearly 100 Ceres [8] companies, including Bank of America, Gap, Nikeand Timberland. Ceres also works with investors worldwide.Links:[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8]
  9. 9. Published on Ethical Corporation ( by TCPDF (
  10. 10. Published on Ethical Corporation ( 26000: Sustainability as standard?Posted by Jon Entine [1] on Jul 11, 2012Jon Entine asks if, almost two years on since its launch, ISO 26000 is workingIs ISO 26000 – from the International Organisation for Standardisation – meeting its goal ofpressuring governments, business and NGOs to operate according to a set of global socialstandards? That’s a challenging question considering the final document was simultaneouslyambiguous, ambitious and toothless.The standard’s goal is in fact modest. It’s not a management system but a guide to “sociallyresponsible” organisational behaviour. It offers social philosophy without certification – which criticssay makes it a limp noodle. After all, with no verification, corporations can use it to boost their publicimage by trumpeting standards that for the most part require little more than high-minded rhetoric.“Many companies will be happy to proclaim their use of the standard [whether legitimate ornot],” warns Adrian Henriques [2], chair of the UK committee on ISO 26000 and visitingprofessor of accountability at Middlesex University business school. Henriques cites Toshiba, whosemost recent corporate responsibility report is structured on ISO 26000, although it is not referenced.Often, the standard appears to be invoked as a public relations gimmick. Henriques notes thatShowa Denko, a leading Japanese chemical engineering firm, writes in its 2011 social responsibilityreport that it used the standard to “ensure compliance with guidelines for social responsibility”, butprovides no data to support this claim.Nevertheless, ISO 26000 has its defenders, based on the rationalisation that something is betterthan nothing. “I strongly believe that a guidance document is exactly what is needed at themoment,” says ISO secretary-general Rob Steele, rejecting criticism that it lacks enforcementmechanisms.Let’s be clear: the 26000 standard is nothing like the guidelines put forth by the ISO on other aspectsof business. Because of the charged issues here, ISO 26000 is both vague and highly political. Eachsection has a laundry list of daunting societal problems, mostly in developing countries, followed bya wish list of NGO-supported solutions, the bill for which would be picked up by developed countriesor multinational companies.The standard is being used. Various aspects are providing blueprints for left-leaning Europeancountries, empowering advocacy groups and inspiring activist judicial systems to embrace these“universally agreed upon” principles when conflicts involving corporations come to a head.National standards An Austrian national version is expected to mandate actions that are only recommended in ISO26000. Denmark has used it to adopt a national standard, DS 26001, which offers a “sociallyresponsible management system” certification. The Swedish local government procurementstandard, launched in 2007, was influenced by developing drafts.Not surprisingly, developing countries, for example St Lucia, Nigeria and Malaysia, are alsovehement supporters. They believe they could gain from tighter reins placed on multinationalcorporations.The United States and India, which supported early drafts of ISO 26000, ultimately voted, along withthree other countries, against the final version. Critics believe it contains problematic proclamationsabout contested notions of environmental impacts and employee and consumer rights, but noendorsement of shareholder rights.
  11. 11. Published on Ethical Corporation ( Much of the concern revolves around ISO 26000’s embrace of the “precautionary principle” to resolve environmental conflicts. Although that conforms to EU practices, it’s rejected by the US, Japan and other countries, and is considered problematic by scientists because it often eschews cost-benefit analysis. After much haggling, the final draft eliminated the only criterion that would have specifically recognised that firms could weigh the costs of taking action on principles of social responsibility. Conservative critics also fret that ISO 26000 could be a stalking horse for a United Nations-type transnational government, threatening national sovereignty. It does not address how to resolve conflicts between shareholders and stakeholders – direct stakeholders such as employees or indirect ones such as NGOs that often proclaim to represent “the environment” or “consumers”. Does an activist group legitimately represent the environment just because it makes aggressive pronouncements and has ready access to the echo chamber of the media and web? To what degree should advocacy groups be granted “stakeholder status”? Many industry leaders, particularly in the US, believe these kind of standards encourage protectionism ahead of innovation, which is an economic drag, dampening economic recovery. There are also worries that if ISO 26000 does lead to transnational regulation, it could put a pillar of market capitalism – the ability of companies to transact business – up for grabs. Through all the scepticism surrounding ISO 26000, its advocates remain adamant that its potential for mischief is overstated and its long-range impact will turn out to be both profound and mostly for the good. Jon Entine is senior fellow at the Center for Health and Risk Management at George Mason University and founder of the consulting firm ESG MediaMetrics. Links: [1] [2] by TCPDF (