Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I have now joined the future

This is a green post. It is recycled from my reporting blog. It's a sort of lighter version of Wayne's excellent analysis of the REAL future of Codes and Standards, though it was actually written before i know that the future would feature in both posts it is:

Guess what ! I have now officially become a member of the future.

I participated yesterday in what was for me a very futuristic experience - yes - you guessed .. a WEBINAR!! I like to think i am a computer-literate techie sort of person, but to date, I have resisted all these millions of webinars and things, mainly because of the hassle factor (getting hooked up), the earphones factor (flat ears) , the poor connection factor (crackles, buzzes and beeps) and the half-sentence factor ( hello, welcome to.................. today............will discuss .................important to note that ....................very significant as you can see on slide 3 that....................) . But the temptation of hearing code-guru Deborah Leipziger was too great to resist. So, albeit a little late (10 yr old daughter needed mom to buy her hundreds of $$$$$ of clothes for her birthday party at the weekend), I accepted the CSR International invitation to join the first in the impressive line-up of webinar events scheduled until the end of 2009 (this is great forward planning - unlike my local culture where planning more than 3 hours ahead causes chronic migraine)

Deborah Leipziger is the first lady of corporate, industry and cause-related codes of conduct and ethical standards. Her Code Book created order and understanding of the relevance and importance of framing conduct expectations and existing best practices. A sort of Code Bible. Amen.

How is this connected to Reporting ? No CSR report today is complete without reference to a Code of Conduct and in many cases, declaration of a string of external codes that the corporation adopts. My guess is that on average, companies have about 5 or more different codes they try to observe in their businesses.

A quick look at some CSR reports proves me mainly right:

  • ExxonMobil 2007: corporate code(s) of conduct , global responsible care charter, global compact, voluntary Principles on Security and human Rights, millenium development goals, ILO convention on Indigenous peoples
  • Westpac Banking Corp 2008 : UNPRI, principles for doing business, Equator Principles, ASX principles on Good Corporate Governance, sustainable supply chain managment code of conduct, GRI, UNEP Finance Initiative, CEO Water Mandate
  • Sony 2008: Sony Group code of conduct, EICC code of conduct (only 2 ? did i miss a few?)
  • Diageo 2008: Global compact, Dublin Principles, Business charter for sustainable development, CEO Water Mandate, internal codes of ethics, GRI

The harmonization of codes was one point raised in the discussion - though a key part of the value of the Code is the process by which it was created. So maybe we need lots of processes but less codes ?

Anyway, back to the view from the top - few insights from the guru:

  • ISO 26000 is not cutting-edge but it is broad and covers most of the range of CSR issues . It is right to go the guideline route and not the certification route, though certification at a national level in local language could be an opportunity. Some national certification bodies are already starting to consider its use - Portugal and Denmark for instance.
  • Sectorialization is becoming more popular and useful as a tool for different industries such as the electronics industry, automotives, forestry, financial sector tools such as the Equator Principles.
  • Training is essential to ensure application and assimilation of codes - this is often underestimated
  • Impact analysis including gathering of base line data is often overlooked but is an important tool in understanding both the effectiveness of the code and the unintended consequences of implementation.
In response to my question, What about a code of conduct for CSR professionals or are we exempt? there was a knowing smile and an admission that the cobbler forgot to make himself a pair of shoes, or whatever the saying is. There was the question of how do you define a CSR professional . Right now, as long as its polite, I dont mind. :-)
Anyway, i have to end this blog post now as i have to go off and write another code....
Thanks to Deborah and to Wayne Visser, CSRI founder and webinar maestro

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm based in Israel. Visit our website at: !