The winds of change
In the space of a generation, the largely technology-driven transformation of global markets has transformed the climate in which business operates. In addition, regulatory changes and stakeholder expectations and greater public scrutiny have
demanded that business act on emerging issues and deliver higher levels of business integrity, conduct and transparency.
When the United Nations proposed a “global compact” with business in 2000, it resonated with corporate leaders concerned about the situation they were in and the world around them.
THE EMERGENCE OF VOLUNTARY INITIATIVES
In response to the anti-globalisation movement and lack of global governance for environmental and social issues, a number of voluntary corporate initiatives emerged during the 1990s. Many of these have been instrumental in shaping what
has emerged as corporate sustainability globally. Below, we highlight a selection of initiatives and organisations noted as important contributors to the global agenda:
BUSINESS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (1992)
BSR is a primarily US-based organisation that works with companies to integrate social and environmental considerations into their core business. It has expanded into a global organisation working across sectors on cross-cutting issues such as energy, women’s empowerment, climate change and water.
TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL (1993)
In the early 1990s, corruption as a topic was not widely discussed. Companies could still write off bribes as business expenses in their tax filings. There was no global convention on corruption, and little in place to gauge corruption globally. Transparency International was established to fight corruption, by monitoring and publishing information about corruption and bribery in the public and private sectors. Their first major milestone was the publishing of the Corruption Perception
Index in 1995 and the Corruption Barometer in 2003.
THE WORLD BUSINESS COUNCIL FOR
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (1995)
Originating from the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the WBCSD was set up to provide a platform for business to share knowledge and best practices, and to advocate business positions on sustainability issues. Its global network today comprises around 200 companies working on issues like energy and climate, ecosystems and the role of business in society.
THE GLOBAL REPORTING INITIATIVE (2002)
Originally formed by the the US based non-profit Ceres (formerly the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies) and the Tellus Institute, the GRI issued its first exposure draft guidelines for sustainability reporting in 1999. The GRI’s mission is to make sustainability reporting standard practice by providing guidance and support to organisations. The GRI guidelines have developed into the de facto global standard for non-financial reporting. By 2015, 7,500 organisations were using the GRI guidelines to create their sustainability reports.
THE EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRIES TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE (2003)
EITI emerged from the ‘Publish What You Pay’ campaign in 1999 which encouraged companies to report on their payments to governments in developing countries. Set up as a tool to counter the ‘resource curse’ where revenues from oil, gas and mining do not deliver development but contribute to poverty, corruption and conflict. EITI consists of 12 principles for increased transparency on payments and revenues in the
THE PRINCIPLES FOR RESPONSIBLE INVESTMENT (2006)
The PRI is a global network of investors working together to put six principles for responsible investment into practice. The PRI commits signatories to incorporate environmental, social and governance issues into investment decision-making and ownership practices. It has 1,325 signatories representing 45 trillion USD assets under management.
THE PRINCIPLES FOR RESPONSIBLE MANAGEMENT EDUCATION (2007)
The PRME is a global initiative which champions responsibility within business management education. It is a set of six principles that business schools and academic institutions commit to in order to advance social responsibility in their curricula and research. The mission of PRME is to develop a new generation of business leaders capable of managing the complex challenges faced by business and society in the 21st century.
THE INTERNATIONAL INTEGRATED REPORTING COUNCIL (2010)
The IIRC is a global coalition working to promote integrated thinking and reporting on financial and non-financial value creation as the next step in the evolution of corporate reporting.