Vigeo measures lobbyingJuly 2010
The increasing importance of corporate lobbying as a CSR issue has been recognised by the Vigeo ratings agency, which will now include an assessment of 'the transparency and integrity of influence strategies and practices' in its regular social responsibility ratings.
The measure, introduced by the France-based agency on 1 July, will aim to reflect how companies publicly report on the commitments they have undertaken on lobbying and the resources they allocate to it, whether in-house or by using specialist organizations such as think-tanks, professional lobbyists, or trade associations.
Vigeo said it had been prompted to introduce the criteria 'against a backdrop of increasingly powerful professional lobbying' and growing unease that some businesses might be adopting behind-the-scenes positions that conflict with their social responsibility programmes.
It says companies that provide public information on the positions they uphold and on the budgets allocated to their relationships with governmental decision-makers 'are better placed to protect their reputation, improve their legal security, raise confidence, and thus their attractiveness to investors, as well as their licence to operate and, more generally, the social acceptability of their brand'.
Vigeo, which has 86 employees at offices in Paris, Brussels, Milan and Casablanca, has developed its criteria with the support of the French section of Transparency International and as part of a partnership agreement between the two signed in July 2009.
Fouad Benseddik, Vigeo's methodology director, said responsible lobbying was 'an emerging subject' among businesses - 'one that is potentially fraught with controversies but also the bearer of opportunities for those able to incorporate it into their social responsibility practices'.
Anne-Marie Ducroux, a board member of Transparence International France, said the hope was that the new criteria would reward companies that have a sound lobbying strategy and 'encourage other private-sector players to go down this path'.
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