Corporate responsibility: A basis for action

Companies must decide what these principles should be, and finally, how to ensure that they are acted upon. Legal implications of individual company principles must also be considered, since empty promises or claims could expose the company to liability.

The most important consideration for individual companies when it comes to corporate responsibility is whether or not to make their voluntary business principles explicit.

The principles themselves, and associated arrangements, are likely to be attuned to the needs and circumstances of the particular company influenced by its history, culture, geographical location, size, sector, and so on. In devising corporate responsibility principles, corporations may learn from the practice of other companies and from guidelines developed by national and international business associations.

Codes, resolutions and declarations by governmental organizations can serve as useful benchmarks for companies in the conception of their formal principles.

Although ICC does not formally endorse any codes other than its own, the following list is provided for research and reference purposes:

  • OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
  • The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
  • The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) (directed to "all organs of society")
  • The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998)
  • The Rio Declaration on Sustainable Development (1992)
  • European Parliament resolution on "EU standards for European enterprises operating in developing countries: towards a European code of conduct"

Another major initiative is the UN Global Compact. This was launched by the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in his speech at Davos in January 1999, inviting business to adopt universally agreed values in the areas of human rights, labour standards and environmental protection as a "Global Compact for the 21st Century".

The Global Compact (www.unglobalcompact.org) can play a useful role in promoting best corporate practice for sustainable growth and responsible business conduct, and in response to the challenges of globalization.

ICC also believes that, whether formal or implied, business principles should reflect the values expressed in:

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