Australian CSR & Human Rights Research
Tuesday, 28th September 2004 at 1:09 pm
The Corporate Citizenship Research Unit (CCRU) at Deakin University has embarked upon a new area of inquiry in the field of Corporate Citizenship and Human Rights in Australia.
Headed by Professor David Birch and Dr Lynne Alice with the assistance of Rosetta Moors, the CCRU HR Project examines the corporate social responsibility and human rights position of major Australia companies, identifies themes and makes recommendations for the future.
Prof Birch says international research increasingly recognises the legal obligations and moral responsibilities of large scale companies, particularly those with global networks, to contribute to the economic and social welfare of the communities and regions in which they operate.
However he says there is a paucity of regional research about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Human Rights practice within Australian companies. This research provides a comprehensive survey of human rights obligations of companies operating within Australia and identifies best practices.
He says overall, by building on common themes such as “risk”, “governance” and “disclosure”, the CCRU HR project:
– Explores how the relationship between corporate citizenship and human rights can best be understood.
– Examines the CSR programs of Australian companies, and how these programs intersect with upholding human rights as defined in international law and obligations ratified by Australian federal and state legislation.
– Articulates the HR capacity/liability of multinational companies operating within Australia, given Australia’s international HR profile.
– Determines how selected Australian companies view the risk/liability factors of their operations with or without explicit CSR/human rights compliance.
– Analyses how selected Australian companies evaluate their own CSR/HR performance and identifies
o how this is communicated to the public and government
o how it is evaluated (formally and informally) by the public and government.
Within this framework a number of projects are being undertaken, such as CSR and Human Rights in Australia’s Top Financial Services Companies.
This project will investigate the level of commitment to human rights within the corporate social responsibility reporting of the top 50 Australian financial services companies (based on market capitalisation).
The research is intended to examine how financial institutions offering Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) initiatives in Australia establish a relationship between the disclosure of human rights risks to their stated corporate citizenship policies and practices in their Australian based operations.
It will provide a comprehensive survey of human rights obligations and identify best practices of financial companies operating within Australia. In particular, the study will isolate any explicit referencing in public domain documentation to obligations and responsibilities in accordance with the upholding of UN determined human rights standards within the financial services sector.
Prof Birch says it will also provide a scoping of financial companies’ stated commitments to human rights in relation to the major social reporting frameworks available for companies to use.
Social reporting initiatives will be identified and evaluated according to compliance with, or beyond, these international standards. The top 50 financial services companies will then be classified and ranked according to the level of standards they are currently reporting on.
It is expected that the research which will be in full swing early in 2005 will form the foundation for future investigation into other business sectors operating within Australia and the southern hemisphere.
Professor David Birch can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.