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Commonality within Diverse Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility Schemes

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In recent years, there's been increased focus on corporate sustainability and responsibility. There has been a rise in conferences, trade shows, educational workshops, webinars, and many other events that focus on CSR. It's not surprising considering that, in today's world, it's now more important than ever that global companies (and their suppliers) demonstrate a commitment, focus, and methodology to address sustainability and social responsibility.

From supply chain audits to annual sustainability reports, a new culture of corporate engagement is emerging. Like any change or evolution of corporate culture, it can be disruptive and confusing. There are many competing CSR schemes worldwide, with different goals and reporting requirements, but the underlying frameworks are not as disparate as one might think.

At our client's request, we analyzed 25 of the top global CSR programs for their differences and commonalities to help the client choose the best fit for their industry. We evaluated:

  • AccountAbility Assurance Standard (AA1000)
  • Business in the Community Corporate Responsibility Index (BITC)
  • European Centre of Employers and Enterprises Providing Public Services CSR Assessment (CEEP)
  • Caux Principles for Business (CPB)
  • Prince's Accounting for Sustainability-Connecting Reporting Framework (CRF)
  • Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI)
  • Defra Trucost Reporting Guidelines (DTRG)
  • Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition Code of Conduct (EICC)
  • European Commission Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS)
  • Forum Ethibel Ecolabel (Eithibel)
  • Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI)
  • Fair Labor Association Workplace Code of Conduct (FLA)
  • FTSE 4 Good Index
  • FairWear Foundation Labour Standards (FWF)
  • GoodCorporation Standard
  • Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Reporting Guidelines (GRI)
  • Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP)
  • Global Sullivan Principles (GSP)
  • International Labor Organization Standards (ILO)
  • International Standards Organization 2010 Guidance on Social Responsibility (ISO 26001)
  • Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD)
  • Principles for Global Corporate Responsibility (PGCR)
  • Social Accountability International Standard (SA 8000)
  • Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA)
  • United Nations Global Compact (UNGC)

The interesting part was that there's a high degree of commonality in the areas we looked at.

  • Labor Relations. 80 percent of the CSR standards we looked at had some labor relations focus. When looking at the 20 most common areas within that dynamic, we noticed that 75 percent or more had requirements dealing directly with non-discrimination, diversity, collective bargaining, prohibition of child labor, fair wages, and respect for human rights.
  • Health & Safety. Once again, 80 percent of the CSR standards had a focus on health and safety requirements. The four most common areas were an H&S management system, workplace conditions, dormitory/canteen conditions, and emergency management; however, none of the areas were in a majority of the standards.
  • Business Ethics. All but two standards had a focus on business ethics with corporate transparency and accountability in over 75 percent of them. The other common areas included performance monitoring/ reliable reporting; regulatory compliance; and prohibition of corruption, bribery, gifts, and contributions.
  • Establishment of an environmental management system (EMS) such as ISO 14001 was in 60 percent of the standards. Areas covered by an EMS, such as communication, monitoring, policy, and action plans were addressed by those that did not look at an EMS in particular. Energy usage, which has become popular with the recent ISO 50001, and superior energy performance standards were in approximately one-third of the standards. Water usage, which has seen a significant rise in interest in many industries, was an explicit focus in 20 percent of the CSR standards.
  • Consumer Rights. While less than 40 percent of the standards had a focus on consumer rights, the two most common areas were honesty in advertising/branding and consumer health/recalls. Surprisingly, only two standards dealt specifically with responsibility to end users and product social aspects.
  • Social Responsibility. Addressed in 60 percent of the standards, there was no area that had a majority of focus across the areas looked at: community outreach, investment, and development; corporate philanthropy; respect for rights of indigenous people; established social responsibility/management system; use of conflict minerals; and respect for property rights.

Additionally, we noticed that over one-third of the standards did incorporate a requirement for supply chain management. Since we also do third party certification, it was natural we noticed that there was significant alignment with international standards for quality, health, safety, and environmental (ISO 14001, etc.), but that's a different article. 

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Chris Carson is the director of business development and marketing for DEKRA Certification Inc., a U.S.-based accredited certification body for international management systems. DEKRA Certification is part of DEKRA SE, one of the world’s largest expert organizations in the fields of testing, inspection, and certification. DEKRA is a multi-accredited certification body providing auditing services for management system standards as well as customized supplier assessments. 

Carson has been in the auditing and certification industry for over 15 years. He has worked with hundreds of companies in a variety of industries in obtaining certification to quality, environmental, safety, energy, food, information security, aerospace, automotive, telecom, and medical standards. In addition to consulting, training, and presentations in the field of ISO certification, he also co-authored “The Next Step for ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 Certification: Advanced Surveillance and Recertification Procedures (ASRP)” for Quality Digest in November 2013.