Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


CSR ‘must be allied to political lobbying’

September 2004

Companies have been told that they must start working more closely with governments and policymakers if corporate social responsibility is to make further advances.

In an analysis of progress to date, the UK-based SustainAbility consultancy reports that despite the ‘impressive momentum’ of what it calls the ‘corporate responsibility movement’, CSR practitioners are ‘bumping up against real limits’ to what they can achieve.

It points out that many of the underlying issues – such as climate change and HIV and Aids – are so huge that companies can only make substantial progress if they enter the political sphere and push for wider social change.

‘Business is generally encouraged to stay out of politics, but the challenge business leaders face is increasingly political,’ says the consultancy.

It urges companies to lobby for systemic changes at global level and to work alongside civil society and governments in ‘progressive alliances’ to achieve public policy changes ‘that directly address social and environmental challenges’.

The analysis, Gearing Up, argues that the efforts of business ‘are being outpaced by the problems’, and the field is ‘constrained by too narrow a focus and a lack of appropriate links to wider global, regional and national governance frameworks’.

John Elkington, chair of the consultancy, said business leaders might not like the idea of becoming more overtly involved in social and environmental policymaking, but they ‘need to help governments to act courageously in areas such as climate change, corruption and HIV and Aids.’

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