Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business
 

interview

nine aspirations for the coming new year

December 2007

What would you wish for in the corporate responsibility field in 2008?
EP asked some of its subscribers for their views. This is what they said.

Martin Blake, head of sustainability, Royal Mail Group
Carbon trading and offsetting is a dog’s dinner at the moment, and it would be good to get some clarity on that in the next year. People just don’t trust what they’re getting, what the coverage is, whether it’s sustainable, or how much money goes to carbon projects. There’s no conformity, and all the different strands need to come together. So it would be nice if in 2008 there was some convergence, with schemes gradually producing something we can all hang our hats on.

Lucie Harrild, head of CR communications, SalterBaxter
My wish for 2008 is that companies be brave when talking about corporate responsibility: that they don’t just report, but interact with audiences (especially employees) as people – and use the full range of communications at their disposal. And it would be good if people avoided the boring term ‘stakeholder engagement’ to describe communications – it means little to anyone outside business and government.

Louise Herring, international trade co-ordinator, Comic Relief
I want to see the growth of companies and products in the global market that genuinely represent small, impoverished producers and communities in Africa – and that offer those producers the opportunity to benefit from improved market access through fair trade.

Michael Blok, managing director, The Anders & Winst Company
It would be good to see major companies no longer chasing Dow Jones Sustainability Index ratings, but starting to think of CSR as a transformative strategic innovation issue. I’d also like to see Americans voting for politicians who will stimulate corporate responsibility through long-overdue legislation and other leadership measures. Government needs to be the prime mover behind responsible business.

Vic Thorpe, co-ordinator, Just Solutions Network
My big aspiration would be for the expression of social responsibility to begin with the company’s primary resource – the workers who supply its products and services. I’d like to see freedom of association moved from the sub-basement of social compliance, where it currently languishes, to the front and centre of the movement to make the workplace, where we spend most of our waking lives, an extension of the democratic societies that we would wish to see.

Geoff Martin-Henry, director, corporate sustainability and environmental management, TNT Express
It’s great that there’s so much publicity on climate change at the moment, but what really bugs me is that the mentality is all about penalizing people if they don’t change their ways. Everyone knows that if you tell people not to do something and penalize them if they do, then they’ll try to find ways of not doing it – generally with a lot of ingenuity. If we could harness that power to find ways to mitigate climate change, that would be significant. So what I wish for is that governments, whether national or local, try to encourage people to be more eco-friendly through incentives rather than penalizing them with increased charges if they don’t change.

Joris Oldenziel, researcher, SOMO Centre for Research on MNCs/OECD Watch secretariat
John Ruggie, the UN secretary-general’s special representative, should recommend in his final report that an expert quasi-legal panel on the OECD Guidelines be formed with autonomy to make decisions and recommendations on alleged violations by multinationals. I’d also like to see an Al Gore for labour and human rights emerge to balance the climate change hype currently dominating the debate on responsible business practice.

Jeremy Moon, director, International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, Nottingham University Business School
My new year wish is that consumers and companies have more regard to waste. This is often hard to regulate, so entrepreneurial firms might think of ways of attracting consumers by their waste reduction.

Dermot Foley, VP, strategic analysis, Inhance Investment Management Inc.
I hope that North America implements a pricing mechanism for greenhouse gas emissions, so firms can quit using ‘uncertainty’ as an excuse for inaction.

Urs Jaisli, chair, corporate sustainability committee, Hoffmann La Roche
When discussions take place about corporate responsibility – including but not limited to talks about access to medicines – I’d like to see the views and duties of all stakeholders taken into consideration. Such discussions should always be framed in a wider context, looking at the true complexity of these issues. Only then can we make a balanced assessment of the challenges.




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