Australian Business Slow On CSR Challenge
28 October 2004 at 1:10 pm
There is a lack of momentum around the fledgling corporate responsibility movement in Australia according to the St James Ethics Centre, the organisation acting as trustee of the new Australian benchmarking tool in this area.
Executive Director Dr Simon Longstaff says he’s surprised at the relatively low level of interest from companies eligible to participate, especially given the positive reception to the publication of the results of the inaugural Corporate Responsibility Index in August.
He says the first Index attracted participation from 26 leading companies – a fairly small response.
While the relatively low uptake can be explained by many reasons, including a degree of scepticism arising from past experiences with other indices, the Sty. James Ethics centre had hoped that the use of a well-established and credible international benchmark instrument would appeal to a larger number of Australian companies.
Dr Longstaff says that the pedigree of this new Index and the structures designed to support its introduction ensured the delivery of a benchmarking tool that is credible – both in terms of underlying methodology and the integrity of the process.
He says in terms of levels of take up, Australian companies rate poorly when compared with British companies.
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.
The 2004 Index has been available for completion since the 23rd September and with the submission deadline at 2nd December it is unlikely that more than the 32 companies who have registered to date will participate this time round.
Dr. Longstaff says it’s time to have a frank and open discussion about why there are not more Australian companies interested in taking up the challenge to accurately measure and report on their progress in corporate responsibility.
He says of equal importance is the need for business to demonstrate that it can embrace a voluntary approach to such matters – taking the lead rather than following requirements imposed by governments.
The Centre says there are several reasons for corporate apathy and these may include:
– The competitive nature of corporations and their desire always to outperform their competitors– “if we can’t make the top 5, we won’t bother participating.”
– Lack of internal mechanisms to complete the Index in such a way that the company is able to score highly.
– Scarcity of dedicated staff available to complete such an in-depth Index that measures corporate responsibility across the whole of a business – from strategy, integration and management practice through to performance and impact and assurance.
– Poor awareness and understanding about how the Index works as a guide for implementation, providing a framework that enables the company to accurately see where it performs well and where improvements can be made – indicators that would enable it to improve its corporate responsibility performance in the future.
– Ambivalence to the growing demand of consumers that companies demonstrate, in a credible manner, that they are good corporate citizens.
Dr. Longstaff says the Index allows companies to really demonstrate that they have incorporated the rhetoric of their corporate values and principles into the way an organisation is managed; that they can measure and report on how this works in practice; and that they are taking real action to reduce any negative impacts of their products or services and maximise their positive qualities in the marketplace.
St James Ethics Centre encourages leading Australian companies to participate in the 2004 Index. Companies can start immediately and submit responses by 2nd Dec 2004. Results will be published in March 2005 to coincide with publication of the 2004 UK results.
To take part contact Project Manager Justine Alpe at St James Ethics Centre on 02 9299 9566 and to register your company go to www.corporate-responsibility.com.au.