New corporate social responsibility charter requires sensitivity to communities and environment

A new corporate social responsibility (CSR) charter, launched by four former senior staff members at management consultants KPMG, allows companies to be seen to have high standards with regard to issues such as the environment, staff, customers, shareholders and suppliers.

The GoodCorporation Charter is intended to be a common standard for social responsibility, and has been designed in conjunction with the Institute of Business Ethics following consultation with businesses, trade unions, consumer organisations, NGOs and CSR experts. Companies that have achieved the targets are required to undergo annual verification on 21 different criteria from six main categories, by an independent body.

“We set this up because we perceived a large gap in the market,” GoodCorporation Chief Executive and former Partner at KPMG Michael Littlechild told edie. Whilst there is plenty of advice for the very largest companies, in the past it has been less obvious what small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) can do with regard to CSR, he explained. In the first few years, it is intended that GoodCorporation should recruit several thousand companies to the scheme, in order to build up a network of firms that can be identified as carrying out business in a certain way. The scheme is initially being launched in the UK, but interest is already being shown by companies outside the country, says Littlechild.

In order to achieve the required environmental standards of the charter, companies must have a documented environmental policy covering, at least, use of energy and natural resources, prevention of pollution and reduction of waste. There must also be compliance with relevant environmental laws, and an evaluation of the company’s most significant environmental impacts. “The environmental side of it is one of the toughest things,” explained Littlechild. Whilst many of the companies that have applied to the scheme are up to scratch on other aspects of the charter, they are often only just starting out on environmental issues, he said.

Once companies have reached the required standards, they must then show continuous improvement every year. “This is not necessarily rocket science,” said Littlechild. “You don’t have to be an expert in environmental science to do these rather basic things in your company.”

Companies taking part are required to pay an annual fee, which predominantly pays for the independent verification. For this reason, the size of a company’s membership fee depends on the size of the company, making the scheme more accessible for smaller organisations, says GoodCorporation.

Ten companies have been involved in an initial pilot of the scheme. The smallest is two-person consultancy team ARA Consulting. “We are in a competitive marketplace and we’re very small,” said Roger Shipton, one half of the ARA team. “By being a GoodCorporation we can demonstrate that we live our values.”

A much larger company that took part in the pilot programme is the high-profile betting business, Ladbrokes. The company has over 1,900 shops and employs 10,000 people, and has been commended by GoodCorporation for its internal communication and staff management policies, and for the lead the company has taken with the treatment of vulnerable customers. By taking part in the scheme, Ladbrokes has been given assistance with updating its environmental policies. “The verification was really thorough and helped us considerably,” said Ladbrokes Director of Communications Jennie Eaves.

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