A call for views on corporate responsibility has been published after Business Minister Jo Swinson spoke of its importance at a ‘Transparency for Growth’ event today in London.
The Minister outlined proposals by government to build and act upon the evidence base on the benefits and obstacles for businesses in promoting ethical, environmental and social practices. The call for views will provide the opportunity for business and others stakeholders to help shape the UK’s vision, ambitions and priorities in respect of corporate responsibility. It will provide the basis for a framework for action on corporate responsibility to be published by the end of 2013.
Business Minister, Jo Swinson, said:
We want to make the UK the best place in the world to conduct responsible business. Encouraging corporate responsibility will help to build a stronger economy and fairer society. We’re keen to hear views on how we can better promote responsible business to unlock the benefits of ethical, social and environmental business practices.
Key questions included in the document include:
- How government can encourage more businesses to adopt internationally recognised guidelines?
- How companies can manage their supply chains responsibly?
- How best practices can be adopted by SMEs when this is normally associated with big business?
- What are the main barriers to business contributing to social initiatives?
- What more can government and business do to improve the information available to consumers who want to take ethical considerations into account when purchasing goods or services?
Sustainability Director of Business in the Community, Alan Knight, said:
The questions posed need to be raised in the board room of every company in the UK. We face massive short term challenges but we cannot address them at the expense of some long term issues or by being irresponsible. Clear answers to these questions are vital.
Chief Executive of Trading for Good, Kay Allen OBE, said:
We want to encourage small businesses that are socially responsible and encourage others to follow their lead. We have a passionate belief that successful businesses are responsible businesses and vice versa.
Chief Executive of Ecodesk, Robert Clarke, said:
We are extremely grateful for the support received from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills and welcome the opportunity to help drive forward the Transparency for Growth initiative. Transparency should be at the heart of every supply chain, simply because it makes good business sense to ask suppliers for non-financial data prior to purchase decisions being made. Until now, businesses have guessed at their indirect responsibility for suppliers, in terms of energy, carbon, waste and water, and other intangibles that aggregate to risk, such as certification, auditing, and statutory compliance. Companies can now connect with suppliers to understand business better and ensure accountability.
Examples of corporate responsibility include:
- Big business supporting small business: Santander UK’s Breakthrough programme aims to help SMEs by providing finance, resources and information to realise their growth potential.
- Trading fairly: J. Sainsbury’s Fair Development Fund aims to improve the livelihoods of farmers and workers in the developing world. They are creating more efficient and transparent supply chains, building close relationships with suppliers and securing the sustainable supply of key raw materials.
- Supporting disadvantaged groups: In 2007, Deloitte launched its Parasport resource, a ground breaking online resource to help people with a disability become more active through sport. It has played a significant role in helping the British Paralympic Association to drive participation in disability sport. Deloitte is continuing to support the British Paralympic Association on their journey to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
- Serving communities: EDF Energy are working with all of its suppliers to ensure that they meet the 10 principles of the UN Global Compact (UNGC). EDF follow up any non-compliance and suppliers are issued with a Practical Guide. This helps them take practical steps so they can demonstrate compliance or reach agreed development plans.
Government will also be carrying out a series of discussions with a range of stakeholders to gain their views on various aspects of corporate responsibility.
Notes to editors
The call for views can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/corporate-responsibility-call-for-views
Global initiatives that set out the definition of corporate responsibility and guidance on its application include the UN Global Compact, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the ISO 26000 Guidance Standard, the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises on Social Policy (ILO MNE Declaration), and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The UN Global Compact is one initiative that businesses committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption can sign up to. Endorsed by chief executives, the Global Compact is a practical framework for the development, implementation, and disclosure of sustainability policies and practices
The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set four ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’, published at Budget 2011:
- to create the most competitive tax system in the G20
- to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
- to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
- to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe.
Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.