Oct. 15: Global Corporate Sustainability Standards – the Role of Collaborative Voluntary Initiatives

Date: Wednesday, October 15th
Time: 11:00-12:00pm
Led By: Simon Zadek, CEO of AccountAbility
Register: http://netimpact.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=1057

Global markets are really am amalgam of interlinked national and regional markets, framed by legislation passed by national governments, sometimes informed by international agreements covering everything from postal standards to trade tariffs to labour and environmental standards. The rules are, in short, a mess, built up over decades by thousands of different public and private organisations. Furthermore, many of our ways of developing international standards are in disrepair and disarray – just look at the collapse of the Doha Trade negotiations as a spectacular example of just that. Another disturbing case is how the UK Government killed off the investigations into BAE’s alleged fraudulent dealings with the Saudi Government, citing the ‘national interest’ as trumping their commitment to the OECD Convention on Foreign Corrupt Practices. Yet standards are hugely important in ensuring that companies behave responsibly in ways consistent with sustainable development. Whether it be about corruption, climate change or privacy rights on the internet, we cannot rely alone on the responsibility of individual companies or the seduction of business gains to ensure that business does the right thing.

Simon’s presentation will focus on the role of ‘collaborative standards initiatives’ in filling the gap between the actions of individual companies and the traditional and limited roles of government legislation. These initiatives, covering everything from palm oil to fish to water rights to drug pricing, have become an important part of our collective pathway towards sustainable development. From the Equator Principles, to the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative to the MFA Forum, these collaborations between business, civil society and public institutions, have shaped a new generation of global standards according to the behaviour of ‘the best’ of what companies can achieve in today’s global markets. Together, they represent a new institutional player on the global stage, exciting, dynamic and potentially transformational in their impacts.

Simon encourages participants to read the following in advance of the call, all of which are freely downloadable from AccountAbility’s website:

‘Governing Collaboration’ (Rochlin, Zadek and Forstater: AccountAbility, 2008)
‘Investing in Standards for Sustainable Development’ (Litovsky, Rochlin, Zadek and Levy: AccountAbility, 2008)

About Simon:

Dr Simon Zadek is Chief Executive of AccountAbility, a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Government and Business of Harvard University’s Kennedy School, and an Honorary Professor at the University of South Africa’s Centre for Corporate Citizenship. He sits on the International Advisory Board of Instituto Ethos, the Advisory Board of Generation Investment Management, the Board of the Employers’ Forum on Disability and the Council of GAN-NET. In 2003 he was named one of the World Economic Forum’s ‘Global Leaders for Tomorrow’.

Simon’s previous roles include Visiting Professor at the Copenhagen Business School, the Development Director of the New Economics Foundation, and founding Chair of the Ethical Trading Initiative. He has served on numerous Boards and Advisory Councils, including the State of the World’s Commission for Globalisation, the ILO’s World Commission on the Social Dimensions of Globalisation, the UN Commission for Social Development Expert Group on CSR, and the founding Steering Committee of the Global Reporting Initiative.

Simon has supported many business’ efforts around the world in driving accountability innovations into their strategies and practices. His work has increasingly focused on facilitating businesses and their stakeholders in developing mutual understanding and collaborative initiatives. His work in this regard has been both at company level, for example for Gap Inc in their work around labour standards, and GE in its development of its approach to human rights, through to his convening role of the MFA Forum, a large-scale collaboration involving leading textiles and apparel companies, civil society and labour organisations, international development agencies and financing institutions, and national governments and business associations.

He has authored, co-authored, and co-edited numerous publications, including more recently two Harvard Working Papers on the role of multi-stakeholder partnerships in development and governance, Governing Partnership Governance (2006) and The Logic of Collaborative Governance (2005). He has written extensively on the impact of corporate responsibility on the competitiveness of nations Responsible Competitiveness (2005). His PhD thesis was published as The Economics of Utopia (1994), and published an anthology of his writings Tomorrow’s History (2004). His book, The Civil Corporation: the New Economy of Corporate Citizenship (2001), has become a classic in the field, and has been recognised by the Academy of Management by being honoured as the Best Book Social Issues Award 2006.

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