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chief execs sign new pledge

March 2002

Heads of almost 40 major global companies have put their names to a statement that personally commits them to place ‘corporate citizenship at the core of business strategy’, and urges their peers to do likewise.

The statement, signed by 37 chairs and chief executives, is backed up by a ‘framework for action’ which they say senior executives can use to begin managing their company’s impacts on society and relationships with stakeholders.

Among those who have signed the statement are Anthony Trahar (Anglo American), John McGrath (Boots), Douglas Daft (Coca-Cola), Bertrand Collomb (Lafarge), Jack Greenberg (McDonalds) and Louis Schweitzer (Renault).

Although most of the company heads are from Europe and the US, there are signatories from elsewhere, including Rick Menell of Anglovaal Mining (South Africa), Rahul Bajaj of Bajaj Auto (India) and Lorenzo Mendoza Gimenez of Empresas Polar (Venezuela).

The statement commits its signatories to make every effort ‘to minimize any negative impacts on people and the environment, everywhere they invest and operate’. Responsible businesses ‘must move beyond philanthropy’ and corporate citizenship should be ‘integrated into core business strategy and practice’, the signers declare.

Five of the 37 head banks and investment companies. Only one oil company head, Olav Fjell of Statoil, is a signatory and no chemical company head has yet signed.

The framework for action urges chief executives to make their companies behave more responsibly by:

setting a ‘strategic direction for corporate citizenship’, promoting the business case for CSR internally, ‘engaging the financial sector’ and ‘taking part in the wider debate on globalization and the role of business in development’

putting corporate citizenship ‘on the board agenda’

identifying the key corporate citizenship issues, stakeholders and spheres of influence in their company and industry

making sure that the next generation of leaders is committed to CSR

being as transparent as possible ‘within the bounds of commercial confidentiality.’

Michael Hopkins, chair of the International Centre for Business Performance and Corporate Responsibility at Middlesex University in the UK, called the statement ‘a welcome step forward’ but warned it needed to be followed by concrete action. ‘The key issue is who will monitor and evaluate what the companies will actually do,’ he said. ‘There have been too many figleafs in the CSR world to date, and not enough independent verification’.

The initiative was set up by the World Economic Forum, a Swiss-based organization committed to ‘improving the state of the world’ and funded by contributions from around 1000 corporations.

The WEF said: ‘Our main intention is not to gather signatures for a code of conduct, but to create a management tool that corporations will use.’




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