Corporate accountability

Source: International Commission of Jurists
After more than two years of work, the ICJ Panel made public the results of its work in three separate volumes each one addressing corporate complicity in gross human rights violations from different angles. October 2008. [see more]
Globalization, trade and investment designs and structures reinforce a model of development -centred on free trade, hyper economic growth, and export-oriented production- which is inherently unsustainable in ecological and social terms. They also destroy viable localized and regional systems that may have the greatest long-term promise for future sustainability.

Consequently, there is increasing global concern about the broader issue of corporate accountability and pressures seem to be mounting from diverse political and intellectual quarters for greater corporate responsibility. The Global Compact is the United Nations' response to this demand.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan first proposed the Global Compact in an address to The World Economic Forum on 31 January 1999. The Global Compact's operational phase was launched at UN Headquarters in New York on 26 July 2000.

The Global Compact is formally a multi-stakeholder partnership of UN agencies, business entities and civil society organizations, established to encourage business to promote good corporate practices in the field of environmental protection, human rights and labour standards. Those practices are based on nine principles extracted from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and the Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development.

The Global Compact is not a regulatory instrument -it does not "police", enforce or measure the behaviour or actions of companies. Rather, the Global Compact relies on public accountability, transparency and the enlightened self-interest of companies, labour and civil society to initiate and share substantive action in pursuing the principles upon which the Global Compact is based.

But from the statements made by the participants at the conference that launched the Global Compact, it is clear that the different partners want different things. Business wants a soft approach, with no imposition of standards and minimal scrutiny, and with specific companies allowed to go at their own pace. On the other hand, some NGOs and trade unions were joined by the UN High Commissioner for Human rights in calling for a 'price to be paid', that is, tougher measures including independent monitoring, public reporting, a faster response on the part of business, and measures against member companies that do not comply.

As Peter Utting, Project Leader at the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), writes in his report on the Global Compact, opinions are fairly polarized: "Proponents generally see the initiative as an innovative and pragmatic approach that can reform corporate culture by instilling new values and mobilize the resources of big business for social and sustainable development. It is regarded as an exemplary form of 'good governance', where cooperation and voluntary approaches win out over conflict and heavy-handed regulation."

"Critics of the initiative are concerned that it may be doing more to enhance the reputation of big business than aiding the environment and people in need," says Utting. "They are worried that companies with a reputation for malpractice have been welcomed into Global Compact, and that the conditions imposed on business to comply with the principles are very weak. Companies can pick and choose among the nine principles they want to address and there is no monitoring of compliance. The focus on best practices diverts attention from malpractice, 'greenwash' and structural and other factors that encourage corporate irresponsibility or a 'business-as-usual' attitude."
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Monday, October 06 2008
Unmasking corporate complicity in international crimes
(Source: International Commission of Jurists)
Tuesday, July 15 2008
Collective report on business and human rights
(Source: ESCR-net)
Tuesday, June 24 2008
Problematic pragmatism - The Ruggie Report 2008: background, analysis and perspectives
(Source: Global Policy Forum Europe)

Corporate accountability: views and analyses

Background and perspective (Infochange India)

Business in society: making a positive and responsible contribution (International Chamber of Commerce)

Non-Governmental Organisations and Corporate Social Responsibility in Iberian America (The Jus Semper Global Alliance)

The political economy of corporate responsibility in India (UNRISD)

Putting teeth in Corporate Social Responsibility (Policy Innovations)

Corporate social responsibility, public-private partnerships and human development: towards a new agenda (and beyond) (UNRISD)

The business of corporate social investment: is enough being done (SANGONeT)

Inherent rules of corporate behavior (Reclaim Democracy)

The corporate control of society and human life (Counter Currents)

Towards binding corporate accountability (Friends of the Earth International)

Corporate responsibility and the future of the international trade and investment agendas (International Institute for Environment and Development)

Barricades and boardrooms: a contemporary history of the corporate accountability movement (UNRISD)

Corporate Social Responsiblity: envisioning its social implications (The Jus Semper Global Alliance)

Behind the mask: the real face of corporate social responsibility (Christian Aid)

Power without accountability? (One World Trust)

Multinationals and accountability (Asia Times)

Promoting development through corporate social responsibility - does it work? (UNRISD)

Swaziland: corporate responsibility on the rise (AfricaNews)

Transnational corporations should be held to human rights standards (UN News Centre)

Corporate Accountability in South Africa: the petrochemical industry and air pollution (GroundWork)

Corporations and sustainable development

A review of the corporate social responsibility programmes of the platinum mining industry in the North West Province (Bench Marks Foundation)

Corporate social responsibility and development: towards a new agenda? (UNRISD)

World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Finding the way forward: how could voluntary action move mining towards sustainable development? (International Institute for Environment and Development)

Other initiatives

Realia Group


Business Responsibility for Sustainable Development (UNRISD)

Global Reporting Initiative

The ETI code of labour practice: do workers really benefit? (Ethical Trading Initiative)

The Accountability Rating

CEDHA’s Responsible Business Program

Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum

Business Partners for Development


The Jus Semper Global Alliance

Institute of Social and Ethical AccountAbility

Social Accountability International

Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD))

Global Reporting Initiative

The Global Compact: analyses and reports

Global Compact has potential problems, not win-win (Third World Network)

High time for UN to break 'partnership' with the ICC (Corporate Europe)

Global Compact Critics

Whose partnership for whose development? - Corporate accountability in the UN system beyond the Global Compact (Global Policy Forum Europe)

Global Compact with business 'lacks teeth' - NGOs (IPS)

Building on quicksand: the Global Compact, democratic governance and Nestlé (CETIM, IBFAN-GIFA and Déclaration de Berne)

Precarious "partnerships": Six problems of the Global Compact between Business and the UN (Global Policy Forum)

UN pact with business lacks accountability (IPS)

Beware, the term 'sustainable development' has been hijacked (Infochange India)

The Global Compact: why all the fuss? (UNRISD)

United Nations and business

UN and Business (Global Policy)

UN and transnational corporations: a deadly association (TNI)

Beyond pragmatism: appraising UN-business partnerships (UNRISD)

Alliance for a Corporate-Free UN (CorpWatch)

Tangled up in blue: corporate partnerships at the United Nations (Alliance for a Corporate-Free UN)

Development at risk: rethinking UN-business partnerships (UNRISD)

Official information

Civil society monitoring corporations


Global Trade Watch - Public Citizen

As You Sow Foundation


Corporate Watch

Corporate Accountability Project


The full list of Greenwash Academy Awards, or "Green Oscars" (GroundWork)

Verification in Trade and Ethics - Verité

Permanent Peoples' Tribunal in Colombia: corporations with a license to kill (Upside Down World)

Corporate Accountability International

Strategic Corporate Initiative: toward a global citizens’ movement to bring corporations back under control (Corporate Ethics International)

Permanent People's Tribunal Cases: Hearing on Neo-liberal Politics and European Transnational Corporations in Latin Amer (People's Dialogue)

MisFortune500: exposing corporate malfeasance against women (WEDO)

Corporate Accountability

OECD Watch

Oligopoly, Inc.: concentration in corporate power 2003 (ETC Group)

Center for Corporate Policy

Coalition against BAYER-Dangers (CBG)

Corporate Europe Observatory

Information resources

A Trade Union Guide to the GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines (ITUC)

Video: The Corporation

Rolling off more presses: reports on 'social responsibility' (The Christian Science Monitor)

Trends in Sustainable Development (UN Division for Sustainable Development)

Business and Human Rights Resource Center

Codes of Conduct

Follow-up and promotion on the Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Poli (ILO)

Green Paper (Commission of the European Communities)

Corporations and human rights

Unmasking corporate complicity in international crimes (International Commission of Jurists)

Collective report on business and human rights (ESCR-net)

KAIROS Statement on the Report of the UN Special Representative John Ruggie (KAIROS)

Problematic pragmatism - The Ruggie Report 2008: background, analysis and perspectives (Global Policy Forum Europe)

Protect, respect and remedy: a framework for business and human rights (United Nations)

Embedding human rights in business practice II (UN Global Compact)

Volvo: evading corporate responsibility (The Electronic Intifada)

Big Oil moves ahead on human rights, slowly (AlertNet)

Contribution to the mandate of the UN special representative on Transnational Corporations & Human Rights (International Federation for Human Rights)

Corporate accountability joint NGO report (ESCR-Net)

Human Rights and business at the UN Commission on Human Rights and beyond (ESCR-Net)

UN human rights norms for business: briefing kit (ESCR-Net)

The privatization of human rights violations: business impunity or corporate responsibility? (Noble World)

Nigeria: are human rights in the pipeline? (Amnesty International)

Joint Submission to the OHCHR on the Human Rights Responsibilities of Business (International Network for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights)

The UN Human Rights Norms for Business: towards legal accountability (Amnesty International)

Business and Human Rights: A Progress Report (The Office of the High Commissioner)

Human Rights Watch

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Human Rights for Workers

New guidelines on TNC responsibilities (Third World Network)

Corporate initiatives on business responsibility

Ethical Trading Initiative

World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Business and Sustainable Development

Business for Social Responsibility

Caux Round Table

Institute of Business Ethics

Sustainable Business

World Monitors

Corporate social responsibility and children's rights in South Asia (Save the Children)

Global Leadership Network Open Access (Global Leadership Network)

Empresa - Chile

Ethos Institute of Business and Social Responsibility

National Business Initiative (NBI)

International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)

Partners in Change

The Global Compact: official information

Local Network Report: deepening the engagement of participants at the local level (UN Global Compact)

Global Compact Quarterly (UN Global Compact)

Official site

The Ten Principles

Database of participants

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Global Compact

Global Compact Leaders Summit

Future ISO SR 26000 Standard

The ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility: Developing the future ISO SR 26000 Standard (SOMO – Centre for research on Multinational Corporations)

Corporate misdemeanors

Coca-Cola's own report implicates company for abuses in India (India Resource Center)

South Africa: Corporate social responsibility programmes of platinum mining industry (Bench Marks Foundation)

Barrick's dirty secrets: communities respond to gold mining's impacts worldwide (CorpWatch)

Why corporate social responsibility is failing children (The Corporate Responsibility (CORE) Coalition)

Arrogant, disrespectful, aloof and careless - South African corporations in Africa (Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa)

Arrogance and impunity: Coca-Cola in India (India Resource Center)

Stolen for steel: Tata takes tribal lands in India (CorpWatch)

WAL-MART: Rise of the Goliath (Multinational Monitor)

Vioxx: the true story (Third World Network Features)

Rising struggles, falling water: Anti-Coca-Cola Agitation Picks up in Kaladera (India) (India Resource Center)

Behind the shine: The other Shell Report 2003 (Global Policy Forum)

Holding corporate terrorists accountable for Bhopal (Third World Network)

Farmers sow, corporations reap (Third World Network Features)

Civil society statements

NGO letter to UN Deputy Secretary-General

Girona Declaration: From Rio to Johannesburg

NGO letter to UN Secretary General (Third World Network)

Corporations and Human Rights (Human Rights Watch)

Global Compact fails to stop corporate human rights violations, says ActionAid (ActionAid)

Statement of the Asia-Pacific Peoples' Forum on Sustainable Development (Tebtebba)

Global NGO coalition calls for tighter regulation of multinational corporations (OECD Watch)

Statement by NGO participants in the Global Compact Summit - June 2004 (Civil Society Observer)

Joint Civil Society statement at the Global Compact Counter-Summit - June 2004 (Civil Society Observer)

Letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the Global Compact (Global Policy Forum)

Joint UN-ICFTU statement on the Global Compact (ICFTU)


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