The Scottish Budget and the Corporate
Social Responsibility (CSR)
There is currently a growing interest in the
notion of "ethical consumers" and Corporate Social Responsibility,
although perhaps limited understanding of what Corporate Social
Responsibility (CSR) is – or what being an ethical consumer entails.
CSR is in general terms when a company, organisation
or body acts in a "responsible" way, where it minimises
the negative external impact it has, and maximises the positive.
CSR in its most complete sense would permeate all core and non-core
activities, creating an intrinsic link between ethics and the
actions of the company/organisation/body.
Scottish Executive & CSR
The Scottish Executive earlier this year set
out its position on CSR. First Minister Jack McConnell observed
rising public expectations and a desire for companies and organisations
to behave responsibly towards customer, the community, employees
and the environment, in terms of production, resources, consumption
and waste. UNISON welcomes this view, but believes the Executive
could give greater encouragement to business and organisations,
and do more itself to act in accordance with CSR values, in policy
making, procurement, employment and its internal operations.
UK Government & CSR
The Department of Trade and Industry has said
that business needs rather than altruism should be the driving
force behind CSR, and that companies are more likely to practice
CSR if they can see organisational benefits. UNISON is concerned
at this perspective. Whilst there is a need to demonstrate the
business case, if the only reasons companies adopt CSR is for
personal gain, this surely contradicts the whole ethos.
The UK Government's CSR strategy is to:
- Promote activities with economic, social and environmental
- Work in partnership with private sector, public sector, community
groups, trade unions, consumers and stakeholders.
- Encourage innovation and best practice.
- Define decent minimum levels of performance.
- Encourage public awareness – through trust and dialogue.
UNISON feels the Government could be doing much
more to define the "minimum levels" and to encourage
Earlier this year the UK Government expressed
fears that the European Commission would introduce a Directive
making it mandatory for employers to introduce CSR policies. Whilst
the Directive has not materialised, it is clear that at Scottish,
UK and European government levels there is interest in the concept
of Corporate Social Responsibility.
UNISON's views on CSR & Ethical Consumerism
Our definition of CSR very much embraces the
notion of ethical consumerism, and it is on these terms that we
would wish to see elements of CSR incorporated into the operations
of local government and the public sector in general.
UNISON is supportive of the concept of CSR. We
strongly believe that business, organisations and the public sector
should act in a socially responsible manner, aware of the external
and internal impact of their actions, policies and products, and
be prepared to change their actions, policies or products if they
have a detrimental impact.
UNISON believes the idea of CSR should be considered
in broad terms to take account of the wide range of effects organisations
can have. This should include a wide range of impacts:
CSR should also include the impact actions or
products have on:
- Work life balance
- Fair employment
- The developing world.
UNISON particularly supports the focus on valuing
people. Our concept of CSR focuses on the value of every human
life; valuing people's time, their family and caring responsibilities,
their personal ambitions and aspirations. This means giving employees
opportunities, operating decent working hours, fair conditions
and pay levels which do not discriminate against people because
of their race, gender, sexuality, disability, age, or belief.
Devising a CSR and Ethical Policy
Trade unions can provide invaluable information
to organisations, businesses and the public sector in relation
to CSR. However, it has to be noted that this is a new and incredibly
broad area of bargaining for trade unions.
As noted above CSR can cover every aspect of
a company or organisation's operations. It may be better to focus
on one or two key areas which are important to your organisation
- Production / services
- Influencing / leadership role.
The CSR policy should then consider what impact
it wants to achieve – eg:
- Supporting the environment/ opposing pollution
- Promoting equal opportunities
- Anti tobacco
- Supporting fair trade.
You should then look at how the company/organisation
can work to the CSR policy goal in the given area: eg:
- Addressing procurement and fair trade: identify all procurement
needs and look at options for purchasing from fair trade companies/
organisations developing policy along these lines.
- Addressing production / services and the environment: review
all services provided or products made, and audit them for environmental
impact, and look out how the company/ organisation can minimise
the negative impact its products/services have on the environment.
One area where there has been substantial research
and advice is on the subject of ethical investment. The Ethical
Investment Research Service (EIRIS) offers advice to companies,
charities and the public sector on investing along ethical or
socially responsible criteria. Socially responsible/ ethical investment
may be applied to any areas of the financial sector where the
ethical/ environmental/ social concerns of the investor influence
which organisation or venture they choose to place their money
EIRIS suggests three broad strategic approaches
for ethical investment:
Screening involves creating a list of
acceptable companies in which to invest through a combination
of positive or negative tests. Eg: a list of companies who have
positive involvement in areas you support such as good employment
practices, or a negative test that the companies are not involved
in "unacceptable" areas such as tobacco production.
Preference involves rating companies according
to ethical investment policies, creating an ethical investment
index on which to base investment decision making.
Engagement provides investors with the
opportunity to influence corporate behaviour. It involves identifying
companies that could improve their ethical/socially responsible
investment policies, and actively encouraging them to do so, by
writing letters, involvement at AGMs, or maintaining detailed
and direct dialogue with the company.
Ethical Investment Research Services: www.eiris.org
Ethical Consumer www.ethicalconsumer.org
Department of Trade and Industry www.dti.gov.uk
Government's Annual Business & Society CSR Report: http://www.societyandbusiness.gov.uk/
Dave Watson - firstname.lastname@example.org
@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572