Monday, June 14, 2010

UN quizzes nations on CSR policies

“Has your national government… adopted a corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy or policies?”

That was the first of 16 questions in a survey that the UN sent last year to all 192 UN member countries. A report on the survey, prepared for John Ruggie, the UN Special Representative for business and human rights, was issued early this month under the title “Survey of State Corporate Social Responsibility Policies: Summary of Key Trends.”

During the five months after the survey’s distribution in April last year, only 29 States responded, and of these, only 10 indicated that they had, or were drafting, some form of national CSR policy. Two others said they had no intention to adopt such a policy.

It was a “low overall response rate,” the report conceded. Yet there was enough substance in the 10 responses to produce a 10-page report summarizing key trends, which do not necessarily reflect practices around the world.

Without divulging whether they had responded to the survey, the report notes that six States – Canada, China, Denmark, India, the Netherlands, and Norway – have recently adopted some specific form of CSR policy. Here are a few CSR details on three of them.

Canada, a world leader in mining at home and abroad, in 2009 released a strategy paper for the country’s international extractive sector. A CSR Counselor for that sector, reporting directly to the Minister of International Trade, monitors the practices of Canadian companies operating outside Canada and advises stakeholders on corporate performance.

China issued guidance in 2008 for its state-owned enterprises recommending a system of CSR reporting and protecting labor rights. The government has similar guidelines in the works for foreign-invested firms.

Norway last year adopted a White Paper on the government’s expectation that Norwegian companies operating abroad will respect human rights.

More than half of the report describes the many ways that the 10 nations (unnamed) responded to the survey’s specific questions. Examples:

Does the CSR policy:
-- cover the subsidiaries of corporations? Five do.
-- provide guidance on how companies integrate CSR into their operations? Six do.
-- refer to any binding legal operations on companies? Three do.

The survey provides only a partial snapshot of how the UN’s framework on business and human rights has penetrated the culture of its Member States. Second, it serves as a reminder to States of the specific CSR duties that the Human Rights Council’s 47 member States embraced two years ago. (For background on that event, see “Multinationals, Human Rights, and UN” at
Print Page

No comments: