Step 5: Establish implementation procedures and management systems

Corporate responsibility (CR) is gaining an increasing significance for businesses worldwide.

Step 5: Establish implementation procedures and management systems

(click to view practical examples)

Companies must raise awareness among their own personnel and other stakeholders if business principles are to be effective and command wide support. Processes or formal management systems for developing, adopting and implementing individual principles should therefore include internal consultation and communication. Companies offer many examples of management systems covering areas ranging from health, safety and the environment to business integrity, human resources and sustainable development. There are also international standards for these systems, such as those of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). In some sectors, management processes and guidelines also apply both to joint ventures and to contractors and suppliers. The range of issues covered varies between sectors but continues to develop to include, for example, diversity of the workforce, climate change, biodiversity, waste management, and recycling. In order to implement its business principles, effectively, a company should define objectives and targets and a structured programme to achieve them.


Once a company has developed its business principles (or revised existing ones) and they have been approved by the company’s chief executive and board, the principles and associated materials will need to be broadly circulated within the company so that all company personnel are made aware of them.

Furthermore, in order to ensure that the principles are effectively put into practice throughout the company, implementation procedures and management systems will need to be developed. There is no single approach to establishing processes or formal management systems for developing, adopting and implementing individual company principles. Companies use a variety of tools and approaches, combining them in a way that best suits their needs and circumstances. What matters is that a company defines its objectives and targets for implementing its business principles, together with a structured programme to achieve them. Selected examples of tools and approaches used by companies can be found below.

Some companies have developed multimedia packages that contain the company’s business principles and associated materials – usually consisting of a CD-ROM and a personal guide –for distribution to company employees and selected stakeholders. The purpose of such packages is to give employees a clear understanding of the company’s business principles and of the role of employees in implementing these principles.

Other companies have chosen to develop “management primers” on specific issues covered in the company’s business principles, such as bribery and corruption, or human rights for example. These “primers” are mainly addressed to company managers to provide additional guidance and support in dealing with specific issues, and to help ensure that company principles and policies are effectively and consistently applied throughout the company. They explain the principles, policies and implementation procedures that the company has put in place, and illustrate concrete situations through case studies. Such “primers” are also intended to inform current and potential business partners of the company’s principles and policies, and – to the extent that companies make such materials public – serve to communicate to a broader public how a company deals with a particular issue and what it has done about it.

Click for an examples of such primers (from Shell's website)

For Individual companies considering the development of such materials should focus on those issues are of particular relevance to their company, and on which additional guidance to company managers would be most useful.
Most companies use internal guidelines or management systems to ensure the implementation of their business principles. These can take the form of practical guidance on how to deal with concrete issues arising from the company’s business principles and policies, combined with mechanisms for internal reporting and follow-up on the application of these principles.
Other companies choose to have their implementation procedures monitored externally (see commentary on step 7), for example through certification against internationally recognized management standards. These include for example:

  • SA 8000, a certification standard on working conditions, developed by Social Accountability International (SAI)

Establishing implementation procedures can be a difficult challenge for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Inevitably, they will have to tailor them to their capacity.

(click to view practical examples)