Step 9: Set pragmatic and realistic objectives
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These recommendations require the commitment of executives running the business and the development of expertise and internal processes. Above all, responsible business conduct requires a sustained effort by everybody in the company. A key element of a company’s organizational development is promoting the importance of responsible business conduct and ensuring that new managers are well versed in this area.
While a basic requirement, the commitment of senior management will not itself guarantee responsible business conduct. Corporate responsibility needs to be implemented at all levels of operations within the company. Clear lines of responsibility should be established with a view to integrating corporate responsibility into the basic management structure.
The role of a company’s board is to make strategic policy decisions on a general approach to corporate responsibility. Executive managers should set practical objectives. The management of corporate responsibility issues should rest with line business managers. But all in all, the implementation of the company’s business principles is the responsibility of all company personnel, whether employee, manager or member of the board.
Some companies have chosen to create formal structures – such as a sub-committee of the board of directors or internal committees reporting to a senior company executive -- to champion and monitor responsible business conduct within the company. Sub-committees of the board of directors are usually chaired by the chief executive or by a non-executive director. They typically can comprise representatives of the board, senior managers of business units, and the human resources director. The role of the sub-committee is to set objectives and review the company’s overall performance on corporate responsibility.
See for example: the Corporate Social Responsibility Committee of Land Securities (property services, United Kingdom) and the Corporate Accountability and Risk Assurance Committee of SAB Miller (brewery, South Africa).
Other companies have created an internal department specifically dedicated to corporate responsibility issues, established a unit or “help desk” to assist operational divisions, or entrusted the oversight of corporate responsibility policies and implementation to a senior executive within the company. Whatever organizational structure is chosen by a company, it is important that these structures interact on a regular basis with the company’s business units and staff, to ensure a coordinated approach to corporate responsibility throughout the company and the commitment of all its employees. A key objective should be to integrate corporate responsibility in the day-to-day operations of the company, at all levels.
Promoting responsible business conduct within the company is a key element of a company’s organizational development. Recent corporate collapses made clear the importance of an ethical corporate culture and behavior for ensuring sustainable business growth. When developing their approach to corporate responsibility, companies may find it useful to consider the importance of good corporate governance practices and to envisage possible governance reforms. For more information on this subject, visit ICC’s online guide to corporate governance for companies of all sizes, sectors and countries.
A “step by step” approach to corporate responsibility is the most effective way to ensure that everybody in the company works together toward clearly defined goals. Companies may find it helpful to set practical and realistic targets. These targets must be within reach and should not raise undue expectations.