The discussion paper presents a proposal for United Nations Convention on Corporate Social Responsibility and Accountability to be established at Rio+20, in order for corporate social responsibility to leap forward and consolidate the private sector as a protagonist for change. The proposal is convened by Stakeholder Forum and Vitae Civilis, under the Dialogue on a Convention for Corporate Social Responsibility and Accountability (CSRA), a global multi stakeholder process which engages civil society organisations, corporations and corporate social responsibility initiatives in the development of the Convention proposal.
In order to reflect the core elements of the Convention, the proposal asks for paragraph 24 to be amended during the Rio+20 negotiating process, to the following:
- “We call for the UNGA to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a United Nations Convention on the creation of a global policy framework which requires all listed and large private companies to implement sustainability issues into their management and throughout their supply chains, and to integrate sustainability information within the reporting cycle.”
Business in sustainable development has been considered at UN Conferences since the United Nations Conference on Human Development in 1972, with the Stockholm Declaration preamble referencing business responsibilities. The role of business was discussed further at the Brundtland Commission, the 1992 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, and the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. The regulation of corporate behaviour is acknowledged in a wide range of subsequent multilateral environmental agreements and sustainability initiatives, and has a vast foundation within the UN system. A Convention on Corporate Social Responsibility and Accountability would be the appropriate next step towards sustainable business practice.
The proposed Convention would address business practices regarding environmental issues, social issues, ethics, transparency and disclosure, human rights, their relationship with communities and other stakeholders, and supply chains. The ultimate goal of the Convention is to level the playing field among businesses so that environmental degradation, human rights violations and unethical behaviour are not used as a competitive advantage. Instead, ethical corporate behaviour would be a signal of innovation, good management, and increased productivity enhancing competitiveness in an exclusive fashion.
Corporate operations and relations involve different countries, subsidiaries and suppliers, a complex system providing difficulty for authorities and the public to oversee and scrutinise activities. Information should be publically available on a company’s impact upon: organisational governance, human rights, labour practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues and community involvement, and development.
Hypocrisy exists in business practice where the operation of corporations in developing countries frequently contributes to those countries’ underdevelopment, while eroding jobs, working standards, and living conditions. Meanwhile responsible businesses lose their competitive ability against companies which incur lower costs through socially and/or environmentally degrading practice.
Ultimately, voluntary corporate social responsibility reporting has made significant contributions to corporations operation. However the incremental progress of such initiatives poses environmental and societal risks. A Convention would create a fair and competitive corporate environment that respects, and is a protagonist for, sustainable development.
HOW YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE
The full paper is available here. We are very interested in receiving input and comments on our papers to help guide and inform the Dialogue process. We are interested to know:
- How can corporate sustainability reporting strengthen private sector responsibility and accountability?
- What can governments do to advance this agenda and develop the role of the corporations in sustainable development?
- Do you have any suggestions to strengthen this particular proposal?
- What do you consider a successful corporate social responsibility and accountability outcome at Rio+20?
Please go to our Forum to voice your opinions on these topics, and any other aspects you consider relevant to the Dialogue. We hope to encourage discussion to successfully integrate this knowledge into the Dialogue.