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 approaches the questions of the responsibility of corporations with the expectations of a Global Network of people and communities who hold these concerns as central to their agenda:
- a demand for a sustainable system of production and distribution and for the preservation of the environment for present communities and for future generations;
- an appeal for a more equitable system for the distribution of the economic benefit of production and services;
- an insistence for the participation of stakeholders and those most hurt by the activities of corporations in the decision-making processes of companies;
- a requirement for the creation of an awareness that corporations need to consider not only the response of consumers to their activities but that of all those who are stakeholders in their operations.
- a requirement for the opportunities of life and freedom for all humanity;
To meet these principles we believe that 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 directly or indirectly by them will be considered and represented.
We will wish to make an assessment of these principles by checking that the company has in place a communication and reporting system which:
- allows for a two-way communication strategy involving a top-down reporting pattern on challenges and progress and bottom-up reporting on concerns and issues;
- allows for interaction with communities and other stakeholders;
- allows for the creation of corporate committees with proportional representation of all the stakeholders.
At several points in our framework we join the call for verified public reporting on company performance, whether on environmental, social or financial issues. At a minimum we would expect such reporting instruments to include the following that:
- the reporting is rooted and grounded in transparent disclosure;
- the information disclosed is directly related to the communities at sites of impact to facilitate their participation;
- independent monitoring and verification processes include a role for non-governmental organisations, for workers and for community organisations;
- additional demands for disclosure impinge on companies operating in zones of conflict;
- the outcomes of corporate reporting are incorporated into strategic planning and participatory decision-making;
- the range of social performance indicators embraces, at the least, the principles outlined in this document.
The responsibility for ethical performance resides with the whole corporate enterprise and not merely with the individuals who compose it. We therefore are seeking ways in which corporations can be held accountable for the totality of the impact of their operations on people and communities in such a way as to address fully the fundamental aspirations we put forward.
In our understanding of global corporate responsibility, the community rather than the company is the starting point of economic life. 1 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.
In this document, by
- PRINCIPLES we mean a statement of business philosophy fundamental to a responsible company's actions.
- CRITERIA we mean particular company policies and practices that can be compared for consistency with the Principles.
- BENCH MARKS we mean suggested specific reference points of measurement to be used in assessing the company's performance in relation to the Criteria.
For reasons of clarity the categories under which the Principles are defined are divided into two groupings: 1. THE WIDER COMMUNITY and 2. THE CORPORATE BUSINESS COMMUNITY.
The Principles are offered as an ethical standard of measurement on which to base decisions about global corporate social responsibility. They arise from jointly held beliefs, which are based on the faiths of the participant groups, communities, denominations and traditions. The concepts stem from an understanding of the ethical value of creation, humanity and the nature of society.
Internet Website address links for a considerable number of codes of conduct, progammes and Bench Mark documents are available in the Appendix.
1. Corporate language generally uses the word 'stakeholder' to include only those who benefit from the company's activities. In the corporate context the company, rather than the community is the starting point of economic life.