Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


CSR profession set to get its own code of practice

June 2009

Work has begun on the first ever code of practice for corporate responsibility practitioners.

The Corporate Responsibility Group (CRG), a network of 300 CSR professionals working for 104 companies, believes a code for the rapidly expanding profession is overdue, and has produced a draft for consultation that should be finalized later in the summer.

The ten-point, one-page document includes the principle that CSR practitioners should be ‘cautious about any special relationship, business interest or conflict of interest which might unduly influence [their] judgement’. It expects practitioners to ‘exercise integrity, honesty, ethical and appropriate behaviour in all business, professional and related personal activities’.

CRG chair Mike Kelly, KPMG Europe’s head of corporate social responsibility, said the code was intended ‘to define the role of the corporate responsibility professional and highlight the distinctiveness of the profession’. It would aim to set out ‘what might be expected in terms of professional conduct and commitment to corporate responsibility’.

One element of the code, as it stands, exhorts CSR professionals to ‘seek to enhance the standing, proficiency and good name of the corporate responsibility profession’.

It also says they should keep their professional and technical knowledge up to date at all times, raise understanding of the profession, and ‘be proactive’ rather than reactive when it comes to improving the impact of business on society and the environment.

Copies of the draft code have been circulated to interested parties for comment by 18 June.

Initially the code will be targeted at people working within CRG member organizations, but the group will encourage all other CSR professionals to follow it. The CRG board will be able to suspend the membership of a company over the behaviour of an individual CSR professional who fails to observe the code.

However, Kelly said the document would be offered only as ‘guidance’ and that the CRG would not expend great effort on policing the code. ‘We have deliberately avoided any implications of an expectation of formal compliance,’ he said.

The code, which will be updated regularly when published, will apply to hundreds of CSR professionals in mainly British CRG member companies such as BT, Diageo, Hammerson, Marks & Spencer, Rolls-Royce, ScottishPower, Tesco and Yell. It will also cover those working for CRG companies with headquarters outside the UK, such as Credit Suisse, ExxonMobil, Microsoft and Nike.

The CRG said the code would recognize that CSR people ‘are likely also to be adhering to other professional codes, business principles and company guidelines’.

Corporate Responsibility Group | Global | Codes of conduct

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