Global Compact – Principle Eight

“Businesses should undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility.”

What is environmental responsibility?

In Chapter 30 of Agenda 21, the 1992 Rio Earth Summit spelled out the role of business and industry in the sustainable development agenda as: “Business and industry should increase self regulation, guided by appropriate codes, charters and initiatives integrated into all elements of business planning and decision-making, and fostering openness and dialogue with employees and the public.”

The relevant principle in the Rio Declaration says we have the responsibility to ensure that activities on our own yard should not cause harm to the environment of our neighbours. Society also expects business to be good neighbours. Business gains its legitimacy through meeting the needs of society, and increasingly society is expressing a clear need for more environmentally sustainable practices.

What steps could companies take to promote environmental responsibility?

Steps that the company could take to promote environmental responsibility would be the following:

  • Re-define company vision, policies and strategies to include the ‘triple bottom line’ of sustainable development — economic prosperity, environmental quality and social equity.
  • Develop sustainability targets and indicators (economic, environmental, social).
  • Establish a sustainable production and consumption programme with clear performance objectives to take the organisation beyond compliance in the long-term.
  • Work with suppliers to improve environmental performance, extending responsibility up the product chain and down the supply chain.
  • Adopt voluntary charters, codes of conduct or practice internally as well as through sectoral and international initiatives to confirm acceptable behaviour and performance.
  • Measure, track and communicate progress in incorporating sustainability principles into business practices, including reporting against global operating standards.
  • Ensure transparency and unbiased dialogue with stakeholders.

In doing the above, the existence of appropriate management systems is crucial in helping the company to meet the organizational challenge. Key mechanisms or tools for the company to use would be (a) assessment or audit tools (such as environmental impact assessment, environmental risk assessment, technology assessment, life cycle assessment); (b) management tools (such as environmental management systems and ecodesign) and (c) communication and reporting tools (such as corporate environmental reporting and sustainability reporting).

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Text by Global Compact. © UN Global Compact 2011 – All Rights Reserved.

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