Corporate Social Responsibility

by Becky Toal and Veronica Broomes

Human rights

Each and every individual has human rights, and there are several international declarations on human, civil and political rights.

Human rights can be translated to the workplace in terms of employment practices, through, for example, equal opportunities policies, procedures to promote diversity in the workplace and sustainable procurement processes that generate a diverse supply chain. These can be expressed formally in a ‘people values’ statement or in codes of business conduct.

A positive way for your business to engage on human rights and environmental protection is to use the procurement process to source suppliers that have positive policies in these areas. In the invitation-to-tender stage you can ask to see copies of social and environmental policies and evidence of working practices and policies in action.

By screening out behaviour that is not deemed socially acceptable, your business will be reducing the risks to both its brand and its operations. Screening in suppliers that have socially responsible policies, backed up by evidence, represents good risk management, reducing the likelihood of contracting organisations that use child labour or forced labour, or undertake other unacceptable labour practices.

We need to ensure the poorest in the planet – who will be hardest hit by the financial crisis – are not forgotten

Kofi Annan (Former UN Secretary-General)

In the context of UK companies, this is very much a question of the ethical trading aspect of their business with regard to sourcing products overseas. It also concerns how they deal with employees in the UK. In addition, there is the issue of supply chain management and whether or not they consider how their suppliers, especially first tier ones, are applying the social aspects of CSR or complying with legislation in their business.

Things any manager can do

To find out more about the range of codes of conduct and International Labour Standards, please visit www.ilo.org and www.cepaa.org. A useful booklet, which summarises workplace standards, quality management standards and other matters, can be downloaded for free at The EU Bookshop. Compiled by the European Commission, it is titled ‘ABC of the main instruments of Corporate Social Responsibility’.