Outreach 1

The evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility and the opportunity Rio+20 provides

Gustavo Ferroni, Project Manager, Instituto Vitae Civilis


Over the past two decades, the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement has grown from something marginal – restricted to a select group of academics, NGOs and businesses – to a media frenzy; and most recently has consolidated itself as an important subject, but not leading news.


1st articleCSR no longer consists simply of philanthropic action, but relates to how business entities manage the impact of their operations on society and the environment, as well as how they interact with stakeholders.  Several initiatives have come into existence during the evolution of this thinking, creating tools and references that the private sector can use as guidance when developing CSR strategies. Initiatives include: management systems, third party certification schemes, performance indicators, committees, codes, and reports.


It is now clear that to reach a sustainable future, the private sector needs to play a central role, with CSR at the forefront. The vital role of business has been recognised in international processes over the last 20 years – and most recently in the Rio+20 Zero Draft, where substantial confidence has been placed in the private sector when discussing the green economy. 


The recognition of businesses as a crucial part of this global transition reflects the pivotal role they play in modern society. Today, the private sector is just as, if not more, present than the State. However, CSR has currently reached its limit in terms of mainstreaming into the business community. As a voluntary movement, the barriers currently imposed to CSR result in it being only too easy for companies to focus solely on the bottom line.  


The time has now come for the international community to seriously address CSR. We need a United Nations Convention on Corporate Social Responsibility and Accountability in order for CSR to leap forward and transform the private sector into protagonist of change.  Rio+20 presents a great opportunity for this. We ask that the paragraph 24 of the current draft reflects that Corporate Social Responsibility has to address the implementation of a set of practices regarding environmental, social and human rights issues, as well as practices related to transparency, disclosure and ethics.


We believe that a way forward is to get governments to agreeing on a:


“global policy framework requiring all listed and large private companies to implement sustainability issues into their management and throughout their supply chains, and to integrate sustainability information within the reporting cycle”.


About the Dialogue on Corporate Social Responsibility and Accountability

The Dialogue on a Convention for Corporate Social Responsibility and Accountability (CSRA) is the starting point for a stakeholder-led conversation on corporate responsibility in relation to the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development and Green Economy themes of the Rio+20 Conference.  The dialogue aims to draw on conversations over the last number of years in relation to businesses’ proactive contribution to sustainable development. 


For more information visit: http://www.csradialogue2012.org/

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