V. Moving Forward
How might initiatives associated with corporate responsibility be scaled up and “deepened” so that business can make a more meaningful contribution to sustainable development? And are approaches, which are currently in vogue, centred on voluntary initiatives and partnerships, likely to be effective? This concluding section addresses these questions.
As noted earlier, regulatory pressures constitute perhaps the most powerful driver of corporate responsibility. But ask business what should be done to move the corporate responsibility train forward, and a very different set of conditions is likely to be proposed. One group of business leaders has put at the top of its list “freer and more open markets... stable and predictable trade rules... business should be encouraged voluntarily to achieve agreed standards... [and] governments should work with business... to set targets that recognize the realities under which business operates...” (Schmidheiny et al., 1997:54). Such a list of recommendations does not appear to be very different from one that would have as its objective the promotion of economic growth and profit maximization. While such a response might be expected from the business community, it is perhaps less expected from other development actors. But increasingly, international organizations and national governments, as well as some NGOs, are sounding a similar tune. Two institutional arrangements, in particular, stand out in the contemporary drive to promote corporate environmental and social responsibility: voluntary initiatives and partnerships (Nelson, 1996; UNEP, 1998; UNCTAD, 1999).
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