Corporate responsibility tools
By Doris Schroeder and Kostas Iatridis
Based on: Iatridis & Schroeder (2016). Responsible Research and Innovation in Industry - The Case for Corporate Responsibility Tools, Springer
Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) shares the arena with other concepts, such as technology assessment, risk assessment, technology management and sustainability management. The biggest and possibly most powerful concept though is often overlooked: Corporate (social) Responsibility (CR).
It could be thought that the word ‘corporate’ limits the application of CR principles and tools in RRI, because RRI deals with private and public investments. However, the three main corporate responsibilities -environmental, social and economic- are the same for publicly funded research and innovation (R&I) actors.
Though CR deals with the whole cycle of business life and not just the R&I stage, for a business to address effectively its corporate responsibilities it needs to focus on:
- Its business impacts: identifying the social and environmental impacts of its operations and assess their significance.
- The tools/policies to mitigate those impacts: adopting management standard to re-organize its activities and minimize those impacts.
- The stakeholders’ concerns: identifying the most important stakeholders, understanding and prioritizing their concerns, and developing a strategy to satisfactorily address them.
To select the CR tools more useful for promoting RRI we suggest the following criteria:
- International in scope, so they provide a common framework for action beyond national regulation;
- Endorse a systematic way of dealing with ethical, social and environmental issues;
- Applicable to a variety of industries irrespective of sector/size;
- Auditable/verifiable through a clear and systematic procedure; and
- Outcome of a wide consultation process, so they reflect interests of internal and external stakeholders.
Based on these criteria the tools recommended for use in RRI are:
The examples below show how specific, well-established CR tools can be used in the RRI context:
Using CR to promote sustainability
|CR Tools||Environmental Management Standards: ISO14001, EMAS |
Energy Management Standards: ISO50001
Corporate Sustainability Standards/Global Initiatives/Principles: AA1000 series standards, GRI, OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, CERES Roadmap for Sustainability
|Implementation of the RRI concept||ISO14001 & EMAS enjoin companies to develop a specific methodology for identifying the environmental aspects of their activities and evaluating the environmental impacts stemming from their operations/products. |
ISO50001 assists companies to conserve resources and tackle climate change at large.
GRI requires from companies to report performance on indicators covering economic, environment, labour practices and decent work, human rights, society and product responsibility.
The CERES Roadmap for Sustainability demands companies to embed sustainability issues in their production operations.
Using CR to achieve ethical acceptability
|RRI Concept||Ethical Acceptability|
|CR Tools||Quality Management Standard: ISO9001 |
Standards/Principles focusing on health and safety/workers’ rights: OHSAS18001, SA8000, Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) base code
Corporate Social Responsibility Standard: ISO26000
Global Initiatives/Principles focusing on respect and uphold of human rights: UN Global Compact, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, International Labour Organization MultiNational Enterprises (ILO MNE) Declaration
|Implementation of the RRI concept||ISO9001 requires that companies do not practice price gouging, make misleading advertising claims or sell ineffective, unreliable and unsafe products. |
OHSAS18001 and SA8000 require the use of safe equipment that does not threat employees integrity at all stages of companies operations.
ISO26000, among other things, requires an ethical corporate conduct.
The ETI base code requires companies to apply practices that respect workers’ rights and promote enhancement of their living conditions.
The UN guiding principles refer to state and corporate obligation to respect human rights.
Companies interested in changing their business conduct in a way that prioritises CR also promote RRI, whether they are aware of the term or not. For instance, Abengoa S.A. is a Spanish multinational corporation active in the domains of energy, telecommunications, transportation, and the environment. In their CR Report 2014 there is a good match between their CR norms and RRI principles (summarized in italics):
- CR norm relates to the implementation of the CR system, its management, auditing and reporting (mapping onto ethical acceptability, societal desirability, anticipation, reflexivity and responsiveness).
- Quality and environmental management norm focuses on customer concerns and environmental aspects of the firm’s operations and how these are addressed (mapping onto risk management related to social, ethical and environmental issues).
- Human resources norm aims at ensuring a fair working environment for employees and covers human rights, diversity, equality, training and occupational risk (mapping onto diversity, inclusion, gender equality and human wellbeing).
- Management of legal affairs, risk analysis and insurance management norm focuses on corporate governance, risk management -including sustainability risks- and legal aspects of the firm’s operations such as contracts with suppliers and partners (mapping onto risk management related to social, ethical and environmental issues).
- Consolidation, auditing and management of fiscal affairs norm deals with anticorruption, auditing and internal control and transparency (mapping onto anticipation, reflexivity, ethics, transparency and openness).
Hence, businesses may already be promoting RRI through their use of CR tools and may also be aware that applying them can lead to economic and social benefits, such as:
Thus CR can be beneficial to all R&I actors, and especially to those promoting RRI in businesses, where acknowledging the presence of this long-standing, highly-established approach is crucial.