Purpose: The Principles for Global Corporate Responsibility: Bench Marks for Measuring Business Performance (Bench Marks) promotes positive corporate social responsibility consistent with the responsibility to sustain the human community and all creation. The Bench Marks states comprehensive standards and expectations fundamental to a responsible company's action. The Bench Marks calls for:
- A new relationship between corporations, communities and ecosystems;
- Support for a sustainable system of production and a more equitable system for the distribution of the economic benefits of production and environmental services;
- Participation of stakeholders and those most affected by the activities of corporations in the decision-making processes of companies;
- Preservation and protection of the environment for present and future generations.
- Respect for the dignity of every person, for workers' right to organize a union and bargain collectively and for all core labour rights as defined by the International Labour Organization;
- Strong codes of conduct for corporations and suppliers independently monitored by local non-governmental and community organizations;
- Affirmation of indigenous peoples' right to full participation in the business decisions which pertain to their ancestral lands and their way of life;
- Development of a human rights policy based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
- Commitment to the principle that every worker has the right of access to health care, accessible and affordable medicines, including antiretrovirals for the treatment of AIDS.
- Corporate governance policies that balance the sometimes competing interests of managers, employees, shareholders and communities; and that are based on ethical values, including inclusivity, integrity, honesty, justice and transparency.
Proponents: The Steering Group of the "Globalizing the Principles Network," established after the Hengrave Conference in 1999 that was organized by the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility of the United Kingdom (ECCR), the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility of the USA (ICCR) and the Taskforce on the Churches and Corporate Responsibility of Canada (TCCR, now KAIROS-Canada). The Steering Group includes: Helga Birgden, Australia; Daniel Gennarelli, Canada; Hildebrando Vélez, Colombia; Crispin White, United Kingdom; Chan Kawai, Hong Kong, China; Jo Seoka, South Africa; and David Schilling, United States.
The proponents offer this document to groups working on corporate social responsibility, to workers and to companies seeking to respond to the challenges of doing business in the global economy in a socially responsible manner. Our long-range goal is to transform the way
corporations relate to people, communities and the environment. We invite people of all faiths and beliefs to engage in and contribute to the promotion of the principles articulated in the Bench Marks. We believe the broad involvement of a variety of individuals and institutions will
deepen the values of corporate responsibility and accountability that will restore human dignity, the integrity of creation and the social order.
Process: Three faith groups (ECCR, ICCR, TCCR) published the first edition of the Principles for Global Corporate Responsibility: Bench Marks for Measuring Business Performance in 1995 and circulated it widely for feedback. A second document was published in 1998 incorporating comments received by others as well as the three groups' experience in utilizing the document with corporations. The 1999 Hengrave Conference in Great Britain brought together 53 delegates from 22 countries to expand the "Bench Marks Project" through the participation of groups from the South. That conference set in motion an approach built on the premise that the most effective way to press for global corporate accountability is to have
strong connections between Northern shareholder groups who have access to multinational corporations and Southern groups who are close to the impacts of corporate practices on local peoples and communities.
In 2002, feedback on the 1998 Bench Marks document was received from individuals and groups from around the world. The Steering Group met in South Africa in October 2002 to draft the 2003 edition.
Summary of the Principles for Global Corporate Responsibility
Context of Faith
Faith communities measure the global economy not only by what it produces, but also by its impact on the environment, how it touches human life and whether it protects the dignity of the human person. Justice requires that we stand with those oppressed, impoverished and exploited and we work to change the structures and policies in order to create a fair and sustainable world.
The Global Reality
Political and Economic Influences: We live in a context of fierce and growing global competition, the over accumulation of production and capital, and the relentless search of capital for new profitable outlets. This has resulted in the dismantling of national boundaries, the sovereignty of nation states and peoples and the globalization of business and business opportunities. This form of profit driven investment impoverishes the quality of the lives of people and destroys their natural environment. The unpayable foreign debt that consumes the economic product of the Southern nations and the Structural Adjustment Programmes imposed by the International Monetary Fund on the countries in the South worsens their situation. This is made worse by the dumping of waste from the North in the South, which severely affects peoples' lives and adversely damages the environment and the social fabric of local communities.
Impact of Militarism: The implementation of the economic power of globalization depends on the militarization of the planet, which goes against the construction of sustainable society. The military industry is directly implicated in human rights abuses and the development of thermo-nuclear and bio-chemical weapons, which threaten the existence of life in all its forms. The private sector must commit to resolving the social, economic and environmental impacts originating from corporate activities in a peaceful manner and through measures that strengthen political and economic democracy, social and environmental justice and integrity of all creation.
Technological Impacts: Today's capital markets have fallen prey to the allure of new technologies and their potential for the development of entirely new forms of products and product lines, but the decisions to develop and use such products are not always ethically appropriate nor socially responsible. Internet communication and services, cloning and genetic engineering for example, are revolutionizing the market place. Ethical and social considerations lag far behind, to the point where new product development and sales become ends in themselves rather than the means to improve the quality of life or enhance care for the environment.
We acknowledge that the different forms of exclusion, impoverishment and marginalisation are a result of inequitable social relations. Ecological degradation and social deprivation threaten the survival of human society. This document and its accompanying processes approach the questions of responsibility of corporations with the expectations of a Global Network of people and communities who hold the concerns expressed in the Bench Marks as central to their agenda. We believe it is necessary that certain specific courses of action are followed when corporations are conducting their managerial functions in order that those who are affected by them will be considered and represented. These actions include the establishment of communication and reporting mechanisms that value interaction with communities and other stakeholders; adoption of a reporting framework that is rooted in transparent disclosure, directly related to the communities at sites of impact and includes independent monitoring and verification processes with a role for non-governmental organizations, for workers and for community organizations.
In our understanding of global corporate responsibility, the community rather than the company is the starting point of economic life. For the community to be sustainable, all members need to be recognized i.e. consumers, employees, shareholders, the community at large and corporations. Respect for each group's essential role in the economic and social life of the community will facilitate more just relationships locally and globally.
Throughout the document, by Principles we mean a statement of business philosophy fundamental to a responsible company's actions. By Criteria we mean particular company policies and practices that can be compared for consistency with the Principles. By Bench Marks we mean specific reference points of measurement to be used in assessing the company's performance in relation to the Criteria. The Bench Marks offers an ethical standard of measurement on which to base decisions about global corporate social responsibility as, for example, when policies about investment and the management of investments are being developed.
The Wider Community
Ecosystems: The company adopts and implements high standards regardless of legal enforcement and will continually seek to improve its performance. Careful attention is paid to ensure that the company's actions do not damage the global environment. Central issues include climate change, biodiversity, genetically modified organisms and pollution prevention. The company adopts the precautionary principle shifting the burden of proof from one of proving environmental harm to one of proving environmental safety.
National Communities: The company, in all its locations, holds it to be the responsibility of every employee to ensure that there is full compliance with all internationally recognized human rights, labor, health and safety standards. The company adopts a comprehensive and verifiable human rights policy, which shall include an explicit commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation's standards. The company has a policy, when there is a movement from within the country calling for withdrawal that it will withdraw from that country in instances where there are gross and systematic violations of human rights. The company commits to not involve itself in military or war activities. Local Communities: Each company recognizes its political and economic impact on local communities especially where it is the principal employer. Its programs, policies and practices should serve as a vehicle for advancing a full range of human rights within each country where they operate. The company affirms the central importance of sustainability for communities, in the present and the future, for the integrity of human beings, culture, society, economic wellbeing, environmental responsibility and the way of life of the people. Indigenous Communities: The company is committed to respecting fully the rights of indigenous peoples as they are recognized by the appropriate jurisdictions and laws, and seeks and receives approval from local indigenous communities and leadership prior to beginning any business activities. The company respects the bio-cultural integrity of indigenous peoples, their lands and traditions.
The Corporate Busniess Community
Employees - Conditions: The company has a global standard governing its employment practices and industrial relations, which includes: genuine respect for employees' right to freedom of association, labour organization, free collective bargaining; non-discrimination in employment; no violation of the rights of children; payment of a sustainable living wage with equal remuneration for work of equal value; a healthy working environment free from all forms of harassment and work schedules that are reasonable and enable employees and their families to live in a sustained and healthy manner.
- Health and Safety: The company affirms that workers have a right to a workplace free of toxic substances and all forms of hazards and subscribes to the principle that every worker has the right of access to health care, including accessible and affordable therapies and medicines.
- Women in the Workforce: The company values women as a vital group of employees who have a significant contribution to make to the work of all companies; and ensures that the social and biological determinants that affect women because of gender are addressed by appropriate policies within the work place, including pregnancy leave, maternity leave and medical leave.
- 'Minority' Groups: The company has an employment policy, which enables people from 'minority' groups to be recruited to the company, to achieve progression in employment in the company and to receive training and promotional opportunities without discrimination.
- Persons with Disabilities: The company ensures that persons with disabilities who apply for jobs with the company receive fair treatment and are considered solely on their ability to do the job with or without workplace modifications.
- Child Labour: The company guarantees that neither it nor its contractors employ children as defined by ILO standards and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- Forced Labour: The company employs workers who choose to be employed by that company and does not use any forced labour, whether in the form of prison, indentured, bonded slave or any other non-voluntary labour.
Suppliers and Contractors: The company is responsible for the labour conditions under which its products and services are produced, provided, advertised or marketed under licensing agreement. The company accepts independent monitoring of its suppliers by local nongovernmental and/or community organizations and adopts a transparent policy to make the internal investigation of complaints and results of internal and independent monitoring available to the public. The company affirms the concept of joint responsibility with suppliers for the additional costs of compliance with ILO labour standards, national law and the company's code of conduct. The company provides on-going free and compensated education and training for workers.
Financial Integrity: The company is committed to transparency in all its accounting and financial reporting statements and communications with shareholders through its compliance with independent auditing and financial reporting principles.
Ethical Integrity: The company directly addresses issues of justice in line with criteria developed and endorsed by workers and stakeholders as part of its financial, social and environmental reporting.
Corporate Governance: The company's governance structure is based on ethical values, including inclusivity, integrity, honesty, justice and transparency.
Shareholders: The company's corporate governance policies balance the interests of managers, employees, shareholders, and other company stakeholders. It neither restricts nor obstructs the legal rights of shareholders.
Joint Ventures/Partnerships/Subsidiaries: All parts of the company, associated companies, divisions, units and subsidiary companies abide by the same codes of ethics and conduct as the parent company as a minimum standard.
Customers and Consumers: All advertisement and labelling of products is complete, fair and honest. Only claims which can be substantiated and fulfilled are made by the company, its employees and its agents. The company does not market products, which denigrate or supplant sustainable natural products, nor produce them under conditions where human rights, labour rights and environmental standards are violated.
APPENDIX - contains references to key international documents and resources to measure business performance on social environmental and economic issues.