In a recent article for the Christian Science Monitor Christine Arena asked the question whether Corporate Social Responsibility rankings were irresponsible. The basis of that question is that many rankings are popping up, sometimes based on unclear criteria, or criteria for a certain purpose and even with the occasional conflict of interest. This makes for rankings that actually help companies increase their sales of irresponsible products. Although the transparency of such lists, and the data from the companies, can do with some improvement, I think the lists are a very good first step in creating a good insight in how companies act in a responsible way.
First of all, being on a list, rightfully or not, puts companies in the spot light. With the open societies, powered by the internet, this puts them also in the sight of critics. As an example, I’ll use the UN Global Compact. Signatories of the global compact commit themselves “to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.” By doing so, they appear on the list of signatories and that puts them in the sight of the critics of the global compact. On a dedicated blog, an “informal network of organizations and people with concerns about the UN Global Compact” put their magnifying glasses on the real practices of the signatories, to see if they live up to their commitment. This is exactly the kind of open discussion that can help further the way companies act in the societies they are active in.
CSR rankings are therefore a good initial step to creating transparency and pushing companies to live up to their CSR claims. What we need with that is independent watch dogs that investigate and reveal. And with that, advise the companies of where they could do better.
This post is a response to this article by Christine Arena, and was first published on the Who walks the Dog blog.