Sir Geoffrey: a CSR championMay 2011
Corporate responsibility proponent Sir Geoffrey Chandler has died aged 88.
Sir Geoffrey, a former senior Shell executive, was responsible for drawing up the company’s first Statement of General Business Principles in 1976, a pioneering and later much-emulated move that began to introduce social and environmental considerations into the corporation’s strategy.
Sir Geoffrey, who died on 7 April of a heart attack, spent much of his subsequent time urging business to behave more responsibly, and in 1991 became the founder chair of Amnesty International’s UK Business Group, which, among other things, works with companies to improve their performance on human rights.
He was a prolific writer of articles, letters and book chapters on CSR, and delivered many speeches on the subject.
Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said: ‘Sir Geoffrey was a towering figure within Amnesty… and was the driving force in the development of our work on business and human rights. He knew better than most that businesses have a profound responsibility to uphold human rights, and the human rights movement has been richer for his work. He will be dearly missed.’
In his earlier career Sir Geoffrey, an occasional guest columnist for Ethical Performance, was a journalist, most notably with the BBC foreign news service from 1949 to 1951 and with the Financial Times from 1951 to 1956. In 1949 he reported for The Economist from post-civil war Greece, where, during the second world war, he had been parachuted in by the Special Operations Executive to provide assistance to Greek guerrilla opponents of the German invaders.
After spending 22 years at Shell, where he was a director of Shell Petroleum, Shell Petroleum NV and Shell International, in 1978 he was appointed by UK prime minister Jim Callaghan as director general of the National Economic Development Office, an influential economic planning quango. He served there for five years before becoming director of Industry Year 1986, an RSA campaign to highlight the value of British manufacturing.
CSR guru John Elkington, who regarded Sir Geoffrey as a personal mentor, said he was ‘affectionate, erudite and waspish’ in equal measure. ‘Geoffrey was intensely multifaceted, someone who totally merited the oft-abused label of renaissance man,’ he said.
Chris Marsden, vice-chair of the international advisory board of the Institute for Human Rights and Business, said he would remember Sir Geoffrey for his ‘unerring courtesy, his delight in debate, his terrier-like pursuit of a just cause and his bluntness of expression when someone or some organization he thought should have done better somehow failed to do so’.
He added: ‘His energetic and passionate pursuit of the cause over the last 20 years has produced real change.’
Halina Ward, director of the UK-based Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development, said Sir Geoffrey had ‘helped shape the business and human rights agenda in the UK and beyond’ and that his interventions ‘simply could not be ignored’.
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