The problem with CSR standards
The mining giant Glencore has just released a corporate responsibility report as it promised when it listed on the London Stock Exchange earlier this year. I’m not going to comment on the company’s performance as this has been done at length by many others, but I noticed this telling passage in the Guardian:
The company said it also collected statistics on “permanent damage injuries”, and had other figures for health and safety, but that it only publicly disclosed what was required by the Global Reporting Initiative [GRI] standards.
This last statement bothers me. It used to be that industries did just enough on corporate responsibility issues to stay within the law – compliance, no more, no less. Then everyone started talking about the benefits of going “beyond compliance” and from that a number of standards emerged to guide companies, including the GRI mentioned above. But instead of embracing the spirit of transparency that the GRI is intended to spread, Glencore have simply treated the GRI like a regulation of old – compliance, no more, no less.
While having standards is both useful and important, to really benefit from CSR the “beyond compliance” ethos must continue – each standard must be seen as a minimum baseline, not a rigid framework.
In this particular case, greater transparency will drive better performance, and will avoid the kind of negative publicity Glencore have generated by sitting on these stats. If you have a skeleton in your cupboard, kick it out!