Corporations have to take responsibility for their actions and made accountable for any negative impacts they have on human rights and the environment. The role of civil society in promoting corporate accountability becomes all the more important in a world where governments are increasingly diluting regulations applicable to corporations and privatizing public institutions. Corporate Accountability has to be distinguished from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which is essentially a corporate driven concept and does not articulate in terms of rights. CSR driven measures by themselves are inadequate to address negative corporate impacts and vary to the extent of the philanthropic whims of each corporation as it is purely voluntary and non-binding.
Corporate Accountability does not mean charity or welfare, but responsible conduct throughout business activities vis-à-vis workers, suppliers, consumers, environment, community and government.
Business and Human Rights
The guiding principles (GPs) for implementation of the ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ framework presented by SRBHR John Ruggie were accepted by the Human Rights Commission in June 2011. The second pillar of the framework and GPs sets an authoritative standard for business worldwide to respect human rights. The effectiveness and impact of the framework and GPs in avoiding business related human rights abuses depends on the uptake by companies, governments and civil society organizations (CSOs). Only by implementing the framework and the GPs can they become of real value for future victims of business related human rights abuse. CSOs have an important role to play in inducing companies to implement the GPs in an ambitious and effective manner. Therefore, Cividep together with its partners Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and Center for Human Rights and Environment CEDHA has collaboratively developed a guide to assist CSOs to use the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights for company research and advocacy. This guide is also available in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese and French.
OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are government-backed recommendations to enterprises regarding responsible business conduct in their worldwide operations. The Guidelines cover a range of topics, including human rights, employment, environment, disclosure, corruption and taxation.
OECD Watch, an international network of civil society organisations from across the world promoting corporate accountability and responsibility is committed to testing the Guidelines as part of the wider NGO campaign towards binding regulation of multinationals. The OECD Guidelines which can neither impose sanctions nor offer compensation, are at present one of the few mechanisms available for holding companies to account. As a member of OECD Watch, Cividep organized a workshop on the revised OECD Guidelines for Civil Society Organisations working in the extractives sector in India in 2012 to increase awareness and practical guidance how to use the unique dispute resolution mechanism under the Guidelines to address corporate misconduct. OECD Watch has developed an online Case Check to assist potential complainants in deciding whether the OECD Guidelines can be used to address corporate misconduct.