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GKN ready to move on CSR

January 2001

The engineering group GKN has begun considering how to take corporate social responsibility into account in its business practices.

The UK-listed multinational will for the first time this year devote a section of its annual report to social issues.

It will also begin to draw up plans for the publication of a separate social report.

‘It’s not a matter of whether we will do a social report, it’s a matter of when,’ said GKN spokesman Paul Dinwiddy.

‘Corporate social responsibility is something we’ve been looking at, and although we don’t have immediate plans to produce anything yet, the section in the annual report is a start.

‘I would expect us to be doing considerably more in this area after that.’ Dinwiddy said the main initial difficulty that GKN faced was assembling reliable figures on which to base any kind of social audit.

‘We have already begun collecting data, but that will take a while,’ he said. ‘We are certainly starting to think through these processes and hopefully will soon be in a position to get consistent data that will allow us to set ourselves targets to improve.’

The annual report, due out in March, will feature two or three pages largely covering the company’s community work, he said.

The move comes as the Church of England has decided to sell gradually around £19.5million worth of GKN shares after reviewing the socially responsible investment policy of its £5.6billion share portfolio.

The review by the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group concluded that suppliers of ‘defence platforms’ such as military aircraft and tanks should no longer qualify for investment.

Dinwiddy said Church of England investments had accounted for less than one per cent of GKN shares.

He added that around a quarter of GKN’s profit in 1999 came from its aerospace business, of which 17.5 per cent was attributed to Westland Helicopters, whose main customer is the UK government’s ministry of defence.

GKN claims disinvestment by the Church of England over the past few months – due to the company’s ownership of Westland helicopters – has had no bearing on its decision to look at CSR measures.

The company made pre-tax profits of £513million in 1999 and employs 39,000 people worldwide.




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