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MPS and lords line up to join all-party group

April 2001

Around 35 MPs and peers have expressed an interest in joining an all-party parliamentary group on corporate social responsibility to be launched in the UK after the general election.

The parliamentarians pledged their support at a planning meeting of the putative group in the House of Lords chaired by Baroness Sally Greengross, a cross-bench peer and former director-general of the Age Concern charity.

Among those who have said they will back the initiative are Alun Michael, the former Welsh secretary and Labour MP for Cardiff South, Ian Taylor, the Conservative MP for Esher & Walton, Lord Sheppard of Didgemere, a conservative peer and former chief executive of United Biscuits, and Lord Holme of Cheltenham, a liberal democrat who is special adviser to the chairman of Rio Tinto.

The group’s parliamentary officer, Mark McLaren, said members would seek to raise the profile of CSR within parliament, identify ‘parliamentary champions’ to talk about the issue to the media, and work with Whitehall to ensure that CSR issues are addressed within all departments.

They will also aim to bring together MPs and peers with business people to discuss examples of best practice in the field.

McLaren said the group would cover ‘environment, workplace, marketplace and community’. He added that some prospective members had expressed interest in widening its remit to include international development issues.

The group will hold ad hoc hearings on CSR issues in the Houses of Parliament, and will work closely with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Socially Responsible Investment.

Administrative support will be supplied by Business in the Community, with money from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which has recently been gauging MP’s attitudes to CSR.

A PwC poll of nearly 100 MPs released last month found 71 per cent of them believed companies’ social responsibility practices failed to meet society’s demands. Three-quarters also felt that companies were failing to engage stakeholders effectively, and almost 90 per cent said companies did not understand the bottom-line benefits.

While 70 per cent favoured the idea of companies producing audited reports on their social and environmental performance, only a quarter agreed that legislation requiring disclosure of social and environmental performance should be a parliamentary priority.

A majority (58 per cent) did, however, back some form of legislation ‘requiring higher standards of corporate responsibility’ - and only seven per cent felt government should play no role in promoting CSR.

Two-thirds felt the best way to do this was to encourage partnerships between the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Questionnaires on CSR were sent to 586 MPs between July and September of 2000. A total of 96 - 16 per cent - completed them, with the profile of respondents broadly reflecting the House of Commons’ political composition.




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