This research project fulfilled several goals: conducting a flagship research project, seeking wider academic collaboration and seeking collaboration with other voices in the sustainability landscape.
Impact: greater collaboration between CR academia and creation of useful knowledge for businesses, society and government. This report was mentioned in Belgium’s National Action Plan on Human Rights as an initiative to help further the integration of the human rights theme into the business sector.
Like the 2011 survey, this survey was built in the spirit of ISO26000, the corporate responsibility reference tool. Despite the fact that ISO26000 is non-certifiable, and that only a limited number of companies actually use the standard, it is still a valuable reference point that appears in international reference texts and in certifiable management instruments (e.g. SR10). It is a very robust standard that resulted from a lengthy, multi-stakeholder negotiation process, which bolsters its legitimacy as well as its overarching character.
ISO26000 defines corporate responsibility as the responsibility of an organization (public, private, NGOs) for the impact of its decisions and activities on society, through transparent and ethical behavior that contributes to sustainable development. This includes the health and welfare of society, the expectations of stakeholders and compliance with applicable laws and international norms of behavior. It is felt that all of these concerns should be integrated throughout the organization and practiced in all its relationships.
Given this point of departure, the structure of this survey is determined by the seven fields of responsibility identified by ISO26000:
- The Environment
- Labor Practices
- Consumer and customer issues
- Fair operating practices
- Community involvement and development
- Human rights
- Organizational governance
Apart from these seven fields of responsibility, this research takes a closer look at what drives companies to invest in CR, how companies relate to stakeholders, how companies look upon future sustainability challenges, where companies situate the CR responsibility inside the organization, what kind of CR standards companies adhere to and how membership of a CR organization affects the implementation of CR.
Key takeaways of the CR barometer
The results of this survey are very much in line with the 2011 survey, though we would like to point out the following six highlights:
- In all domains except community involvement, companies have made major progress over the past four years.
- The most remarkable change lies in the domain of human rights, which is now being addressed by almost 60% of our respondents using comprehensive management systems.
- The CR manager is most likely to be found in a strategy department rather than a separate CR department. We consider this a positive evolution indicating that CR is increasingly being looked upon as a strategic issue, thus moving it closer to the core of the company.
- Companies are starting to understand that sustainability is about business opportunities rather than just constraints, and about value creation rather than just value protection.
- CR is still very much a local concern. Few companies push CR through their supply chain, let alone assist their suppliers in implementing CR. This is unfortunate since a large portion of the company’s CR impact runs through the supply chain. This holds for environmental issues as well as social and human rights issues.
- Community support stays local. Support for humanitarian projects in developing countries remains limited.
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