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Corporate Social Responsibility Developing Policy Briefing 50




Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

December 2002

P&I Team Briefing 44 Corporate Social Responsibility and Ethical Consumerism set out an introduction to CSR, and a brief overview of current thinking.

Since that briefing The Work Foundation has produced work on CSR. It defines CSR as encompassing all the ways in which an organisation and its activities interact with society, balancing the right to trade freely with the duty to act responsibly, and addressing the way that an organisation behaves in relation to its key impacts and stakeholders.

This briefing looks at action branches can take to work with employers develop CSR policies and to put them into practice.

Trade Unions the Public Sector and CSR

UNISON's definition of CSR emphasises the need to observe fair employment rights, equality and diversity, human rights, ethics, environmental and international issues.

Much of the current work on CSR involves multinational corporations (MNCs), and utilities. Trade unions and public sector organisations (PSOs) are notably absent in commenting or influencing the agenda. This could be because unions take for granted that organisations and business should operate on a socially responsible basis, and that the basis of trade unionism is fairness and equality. Similarly for PSOs the majority of activities are in providing public services, being socially aware and responding to people's needs. MNCs and Utilities in particular seem to need CSR to improve their image to consumers, shareholders and the public at large.

However, trade unions need to catch up on CSR jargon, and recover ground multinational corporations appear to have hijacked from us. CSR fits in well with trade union values, and there is a case to be made to put trade union values, workers rights, and human rights at the centre of CSR activities.

Developing a CSR Strategy

The Work Foundation CSR report is based on a survey it has carried out, and on company / organisation case studies.

It concludes that CSR should be an integral part of the way the business / organisation operates. UNISON believes that trade union involvement from the beginning is essential, and we've revised the Work Foundation actions for effective CSR strategies to reflect this.

  • Active leadership on CSR issues – ideally a working group to develop and drive CSR policies forward should be formed including representatives from senior management and trade unions.
  • Clear vision and values from the organisation – developed jointly between employer / unions through the steering group.
  • Comprehensive stakeholder consultation – conducted by the steering group, including unions.
  • Policies that align company commitments to stakeholder expectations – again ensuring that employees and unions as key stakeholders are incorporated in this process.
  • Measurement of the company's social and environmental performance. Guides with which to measure CSR are noted below.
  • Embedded strategies to address key social and stakeholder issues – which includes trade union issues.
  • A link between stakeholder consultation and the organisation's corporate governance structure – trade unions should be already linked into this structure – however it is important to bring in other stakeholders' views to the body that makes key decisions.
  • A commitment to regular reporting and continuous improvement.

Policy Areas to address with CSR:

  • Health and Safety
  • Equal opportunities and diversity
  • Fair employment practices– to include partnership working with trade unions.
  • Environment
  • Ethics
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Charitable giving
  • Community involvement
  • Human rights – including international human rights
  • Transparency and disclosure
  • Stakeholder engagement

Activities to address:

To be truly effective CSR should be intrinsic to a company or organisations activities, to include:

  • Employment practices
  • Procurement
  • Investment
  • Production / Services
  • Promotion / advertising
  • Influencing / leadership role

Measuring CSR

Using standards to measure CSR is not widespread, but a number of organisations are developing benchmarks to monitor CSR.

Global Reporting Initiative for reporting on CSR http://www.globalreporting.org/index.htm

Business Impact / Winning with Integrity from Business in the Communityhttp://www.business-impact.org/bi2/homes/winning.cfm This is perhaps the most accessible site around, and has some useful guides on developing and implementing a CSR strategy. However, there is still scope for trade unionists to improve the models in the Winning with Integrity initiative as it fails to involve trade unions at an early stage – in fact only in the latter stages does it advocate engaging and consulting with workers!

SIGMA (Sustainable Integrated Guidelines for Management) http://www.projectsigma.com/SIGMAProject/Links.asp

AA1000 framework and the Global Compact http://www.accountability.org.uk/ The organisation behind AA1000 is AccountAbility the institute of social and ethical accountability. The website is more complex and it appears that there is still consultation on the guidelines.

UNISON has concerns that all the guidelines noted above focus on corporate business, and therefore the benchmarks recommended reflect the goals of shareholders and big business. We believe there is scope for trade unions to develop benchmarks with which to measure CSR to place more emphasis on fair employment, recognition and partnership with trade unions, and developing the equality agenda.

Reporting on CSR

UNISON recognises that it is important to report on progress of CSR strategies both internally and externally. The following means of disclosure on CSR could be used:

  • Annual report
  • Website
  • Publicity material
  • Social / CSR report
  • Sustainability report

Action for Branches

  • Raise CSR with your employer with a view to forming a steering group with union – management representation to drive the issue forward

  • Consider what CSR activities you would want your organisation / company to address – and put them on the steering group agenda.
  • Closely monitor how the CSR strategy develops.

Further Information:

The Work Foundation:

Contacts list:

Dave Watson - d.watson@unison.co.uk

@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Glasgow G26RX
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572

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Further Information

The Work Foundation:

Ethical Investment Research Services:

IPPR www.ippr.org.uk

Ethical Consumer

Department of Trade and Industry

Government's Annual Business &
Society CSR Report:

Contacts list:

Dave Watson -

@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Glasgow G26RX
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572