Corporate responsibility "woefully lacking" in U.S., say authors
For the U.S. to catch up, the book offers a series of policy recommendations. "Without a doubt, triple bottom line reporting is our favorite policy," says James Reeves, who co-authored the book with Susan Ariel Aaronson for the NPA.
"Triple bottom line reporting requires companies to report not only on their financial concerns, but also report on how the company takes environmental and social concerns into business practices."
The book presents other countries' global CSR initiatives as potential models for U.S. policies. The authors focus on the CSR policies in Great Britain, Canada and the Netherlands, as well as covering CSR activities in Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Sweden and Germany.
"European societies have a long tradition of government involvement in the marketplace, without the involvement being seen as burdensome," Reeves told SocialFunds.com. "This contrasts with the American model of government involvement."
The authors found that the United States government has no formal policy on global CSR and that many individual U.S. government agencies, such as the State Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), similarly lack coherent global CSR policies. The regulation of business is a sensitive issue in the political culture of the U.S., according to Reeves.
"The government can have a positive role in CSR promotion without necessitating excessive regulation," Reeves said, pointing to the example of triple bottom line reporting. "According to CSR Network's 2001 Benchmark Survey, 66 percent of top multinationals already post environmental and social related information on their Web sites; thus, it is not a policy that would be onerous for companies to follow."
The authors find the Bush administration particularly unsupportive of promoting global CSR in trade and investment policies, though they hope that some of their recommendations may resonate with the Republican-dominated Capitol Hill.
They are dubious of U.S. consumers demanding global CSR, but investors may represent the best vehicle for promoting global corporate social responsibility.
"It is clear to me that CSR will take off from the investor-based side and not from the consumer side," said Reeves. "The more demand for information that is created from the investors, the more companies will take it seriously."