St James Ethics Centre's CRI Report
13 September 2004 at 1:09 pm
Westpac has achieved first place in a list of Australian companies with the greatest social awareness.
The Corporate Responsibility Index ranks Australia’s fourth largest bank ahead of BP, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Toyota.
The inaugural international benchmarking of corporate social responsibility by the St. James Ethics Centre and verified by Ernst and Young shows local businesses are equal to their counterparts in the UK, although weaker in the area of assurance.
The complete results of the Corporate Responsibility Index were published this month in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
A voluntary self-assessment survey, the Index set up a process that compared the systems and performances of different companies in and across specific sectors.
It was established two years ago by 80 leading businesses working with UK charity Business in the Community (BITC).
The first round of Australian results are consistent with other international surveys indicating that while many companies are at an advanced stage in policy development, only a few are really successful in actually driving corporate responsibility throughout the business.
Dr Simon Longstaff, Executive Director of St James Ethics Centre, says Australian companies are generally doing well in the area of Corporate Strategy. However, consistent with the latest UK Index results, more work needs to be done to ensure that responsible business practice is embedded throughout all areas of business activity.
He says both British and Australian companies fall short of community expectations that they not only develop policies for responsible business practice, but also implement these.
St James Ethics Centre has not played a role in rating the performance of participating companies. Rather, the Centre acted as Trustee for the process – ensuring its overall integrity, free from conflicts of interest.
The primary focus areas examined in the Index are strategy, integration, management practice, performance and impact, and assurance.
Simon Longstaff says Westpac achieved the highest ranking (98.24%) because its corporate values and commitments are reflected in all of its mainstream business practices.
Other companies that scored highly were BP (97.98%), Rio Tinto (93.31%), BHP Billiton (92.77%) Toyota (88.06%), Cadbury Schweppes (86.92%) Holden (86.33%), Ford (85.79%), Telstra (85.49%), Boral (84.91%) and Lion Nathan (82.42%)
He says that that by making its social responsibility objectives and performance available in the public domain, Westpac is helping to lift the bar at a time when consumer confidence is at an all time low.
Many of the companies with middle ranking on the Index are undertaking innovative programs in some areas, but often at a local level.
Dr Longstaff says this reflects that we are still in the early stages of implementing, measuring and reporting on corporate responsibility.
26 companies participated in the inaugural Australian Corporate Responsibility Index, ranging from the finance sector to manufacturing to extractive industries.
Companies at the top of the Index display the following characteristics:
– they have incorporated the rhetoric of their corporate values and principles into the way the organisation is managed;
– they can measure and report how this works in practice;
– and they are taking action to reduce any negative impacts of their products
or services and maximise their positive qualities in the marketplace.
Registration for the 2004 Index is now under-way. Dr Longstaff expects many more Australian companies to participate in the Corporate Responsibility Index next year, contributing alongside other global partners and leading NGOs in shaping the development of the Index as it extends into the international marketplace.
The 2004 Index is online now and participants will have ten weeks to complete the survey and results will be published in March 2005 to coincide with the 2004 UK results.
– The UK Corporate Responsibility Index attracted 122 businesses in its first year in 2002, including 93 companies from the FTSE 350 and 53 from the FTSE 100. 139 companies participated in the second year.
– BITC is a unique movement in the UK of 700 member companies. Its purpose is to inspire, challenge, engage and support business in continually improving its positive impact on society. Its member companies employ over 15.7 million people across 200 countries.
– BITC will provide guidance and support to the application of the Index in Australia, with the intention of working with partners to establish the Corporate Responsibility Index as a global benchmark for company practice.
If you would like an electronic copy of the Index results in PDF format just send an email with the words Corporate Responsibility Index in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org.