Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Government 'lacks political will' on CSR

Anita Pati, anita.pati@haynet.com

A campaign coalition accuses the DTI of not investigating complaints thoroughly.

The Government's flagship CSR policy for corporate behaviour abroad is failing to prevent human rights abuses in developing countries, according to a trio of campaign groups.

Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth and Amnesty International say the DTI is not thoroughly investigating complaints made under Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development guidelines because of a lack of resources.

According to a spokeswoman at Amnesty International, the Government's resource "amounts to a single, underpowered official" who does not have the capacity to conclude investigations in a satisfactory manner.

The OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises are voluntary and apply to companies operating in and from the 30 OECD member countries.

They promote responsible business and cover disclosure of information, bribery, environment, consumer interests and employment.

In their report, Flagship or Failure?, the groups allege that a 2002 United Nations report, which accused 18 British companies of profiteering from the exploitation of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo, failed to spur action against any of the multinationals.

The Government is currently reviewing how it implements the guidelines and the report has been submitted as evidence of its failure.

Sharon McClenaghan, a policy officer at Christian Aid, said this was the first time the ad hoc coalition, which combines an international development agency, an environmental body and a human rights organisation, had come together to pressure the Government on its CSR agenda. They are hoping to meet the relevant trade minister at the end of the month.

The co-author of the report, Tom Fyans, who is economic relations manager at Amnesty International UK, stressed the need for a tighter regulatory framework: "The Government has been playing to the gallery - championing the OECD guidelines as a flagship initiative for encouraging good corporate practice, but lacking the political will to enforce them."

The DTI responded: "The Government is fully committed to implementing the OECD guidelines. This report will be considered along with other reports received following our recent consultation."

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