Archive for TNC

On the Ruggie-Report

As the smoke seems to have cleared by now, I thought it would be good to sum up the major developments about the Ruggie-Report on Business and Human Rights. Here is the report as well as the collated comments - a fascinating and in my opinion quite convincing example of multi-stakeholder statements.

In a nutshell: Business and government must adhere to three principles - the state duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and develop more effective access to remedies, when human rights abuses have occured. Currently, business conduct produces what the report calls “governance gaps”, refering to differences of corporate behavior overseas and back home. These gaps and legal loopholes provide “the permissive environment for wrongful acts by companies of all kinds without adequate sanctioning or reparation”.

However, according to the Global Policy Forum and Misereor (download), the report does not have global governance solutions to the global governance gaps it notes. Instead, it is limited to what its author deems politically achievable. This above all includes incremental steps, such as Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) and export promoting via Export Credit Agencies (ECAs). On a positive note (made by Oxfam Australia), Ruggie is in favor of strengthening judicial capacities to hear complaints and enforce remedies against corporations, thus demanding a stronger role for government. Even stronger, Ruggie states the opportunity and in fact necessity that corporate misconduct should be dealt within criminal courts such as the ICC - a primer in regards to business responsibilities. Still, Ruggie categorically rejects the UN Norms or any other global legal instrument to establish a fixed framework of human rights duties of corporations.

A critical look by Ethical Corporations’ Peter Davis led to a raging response by Professor Ruggie. So maybe the smoke has not cleared after all - which might not be such a bad thing in any case, as it will at least ensure that - and this is on what most stakeholders agree - the work goes on …

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links for 2008-03-09

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Voluntary Sector Initiatives and other New Partnerships

ethical_corp.jpgI attended a conference on Business and NGO partnerships last week. Good for readers of this blog that there was an off-the-record policy which blocked all WLAN and thus prevented me from live-blogging! So you won’t get every breath they took as in that CSR-Conference in October, see my posts on Ed Freeman et al.

Conferences hosted by Ethical Corporation are by and large quite worthwhile their time (disclaimer: I do occasionally work as a freelance journo for Ethical Corporation), and this one was no exception. And, you can imagine that not only for a journo it’s always worth your while to get the information from the horses’ mouth.

The German-language readers of this blog might get a wee brief on this conference at a post in http://csr-new.net - btw a great multilingual (English/Spanish/German) source for CSR-related issues. All other ones might get the gist of it by focusing on the bold subheadings - plus, of course, following the links below the article.

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Boston CCC: reframing the role of business

googins.jpgIt’s conference week: I could not avoid attending the 2nd International Conference on CSR in Berlin. As they’ve got WLAN available, I will try to blog it - forgive me for any misunderstandings or wrong perception and interpretation of ideas - mistakes are all mine.

There’s Bradley Googins starting just now. He’s a former student of Brandeis, of all things (disclaimer: me too…), and now runs the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship. His focus is change, or the way in how it has been speeded up lately. His take on the private sector is, to recognise the changing role of business - and the changing of the role of government. Not that this in itself would be particularly new, but he has just finished a research study with 25 CEOs of MNCs, posing his frame in front of them and asking, if there are implications of this towards a much needed change in leadership within businesses.

Googins’ main point: Businesses can no longer afford to be bystanders in the process. They already do take sides. Isn’t that a bit like “It is not possible not to communicate” or Mary Anderson’s background to “Do no harm”: “presence is not neutral. It influences the context”, I thought.
CSR is at a very early stage in capturing the necessity to adopt to the responsibilities they de facto have: while 51 of the 100 largest “bodies” (in regards to value and GDP) are companies and 49 states, they have only adopted to the compliance issues introduces, while not seizing the opportunities this responsibility.

Googins presents a survey (can’t read source) on the trust of different players citizens bring towards all three sectors. NGOs rated highest, corporations at the very bottom end.

He points to the growing inequities on our planet and then, aptly connection, to fat cat pay rises, and closes this critical remark with some more positive some examples that show opportunities, such as SC Johnson (?) and the ecomagination campaign by GE. And, he adds that he perceives the new GRI G3 as a very promising step forward.

A McKinsey Study (2005) looked at the CEOs perspectives and tactics for the future. They have four issues: Increasing transparency, implementing internal CSR policies, engaging stakeholders, industry coalitions for self regulation.

Then there’s a real compliment for “German” corporations: They seem to by far outperform US companies in regards reporting (only 18% of US companies - sample: the largest 200 companies worldwide - report on their CSR activities, the percentage of German companies doing this is much higher… didn’t get the figure). However, he does not discuss whether or not this is mainly a PR exercise - leading on to an at first sight quite funny chart, connecting the to-do’s of companies within a sort of mindmap cloud.

He goes through the stages of corporate citizenship (CC), starting from donations and philanthropy up to Business Practices, naming Starbucks, HP, AMD - and their quest for the “sweet spot” i.e. business case in CC. His earlier mentioned CEO survey was quite a surprise: when talking with (and taping) CEOs, they seemed to have more time than Googins originally thought: actually always more than an hour. Quite amazing, I thought, especially since their word is weighted on gold scales by shareholders and the investment community, who has nothing else to do…
New Reality emerging:

1. Business perspective is moving from shareholder to stakeholder (a quote by Sam Palmisano, Chairman and CEO IBM), but still: Milton Friedmans quote of “The business of business is business” remains the paradigm of Wallstreet.

2. Deregulation comes at a price: the benefits of economic prosperity can only be harnessed, whenever the responsibility that is connected to the opportunity which in turn is the reason for pushing towards deregulation.

3. Short-term thinking does not provide solution for long-term problems.

Creating a soft landing to Globalisation means to use the positive contributions economy brings to society - and, of course, the secret of success is to do what one aims for and wants to be good at without generating envy in the world around. It is this that creates the demand for business leaders that recognise their importance in and value to society.

Update: Googins’ keynote.

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MDGs and business - African perspectives

bongos2.jpgI am just back from a conference on the “Business Challenge Africa”, putting business into the responsibility - and opportunity - framework for working towards the Millenium Development Goals. Again, there were lots of interesting business ideas, most of which were sourced from within countries such as Zambia, Uganda, Malawi and South Africa, do have a look at the case study section of the background paper on the conference (link above, right hand navigation, as there is no separate url provided).

What worries me, though, is that all topics CSR are present and known by representatives of North as well as South. Everyone - even Nestle - agrees on the role business can play in eradicating poverty through providing opportunity and that there is a business case (arghh, this discussion must raise its ugly head at every conference only vaguely related to CSR, mustn’t it?) for it. However, where’s the beef? There’s far too little serious (not in moral but in bottom line terms) and scalable multi-sectoral partnerships involving MNCs with NGOs and/or governmental agencies.

Ah well, suppose there’s a time for everything?

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