Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


business ‘needs five-year deadline’ on CSR

May 2001

UK companies should be given a five-year deadline to adopt corporate social responsibility measures or face legal sanctions, a prominent political and economic commentator has said.

Will Hutton, chief executive of The Industrial Society and author of the best-selling The state we’re in, says the UK government’s ‘softly softly’ approach to CSR – involving persuasion rather than regulation – is no longer adequate.

In a new essay, Putting back the P in PLC, he says ministers should adopt tougher tactics, including legislation.

‘The government should put corporate Britain on notice,’ he says. ‘It should declare that it expects the culture and attitudes inherent in triple bottom line accounting, CSR, community investment, ethical practice and sustainable growth to be embodied by the business community within five years.

‘We need to get beyond a debate in which we appeal to companies to behave well because it will be in their best interests, for while that will be true for some companies, it will not necessarily be true for all.’

The essay, published by the Industrial Society, says the government needs to set clear targets on CSR, to offer regulatory and tax concessions to the companies that meet them, and to make it clear that it will impose legislation if the voluntary approach fails.

He says the government’s ‘indecisive’ approach to CSR is akin to ‘running with the company fox and hunting with the popular hounds’ – and argues that ministers should be more proactive rather than moving ‘stealthily and gradually’.


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