A study group recommends synchronizing U.S. public policy on corporate social responsibility and asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to consider requiring triple bottom line reporting.

The group was organized by the Washington, D.C.-based Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, a unit of the Kenan-Flagler Business School of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Existing CSR policies are so broad and various that they confuse corporations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) alike, according to the group. For example:

  • Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations address corporate disclosure of environmental liabilities.

  • The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, passed by Congress, legislates ethical corporate behavior overseas.

  • The Department of State administers human rights policies globally, and also issues responsible procurement guidelines for the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Department of Defense.

  • Even the tax codes applied by the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) determine whether or not corporations can move their headquarters overseas to reduce their tax burdens.

    "Despite its activities, it is still unclear whether the U.S. government finds global CSR a priority," said the group.

    The group recommends that the SEC establish a blue ribbon commission to consider rulemaking that would require triple bottom line reporting on social, environmental and financial issues as part of corporate annual filings. The SEC currently requires companies to report material environmental liabilities, but has been criticized for not enforcing the rule.

    The study group consists of employees from corporations such as Hewlett-Packard and Starbucks, as well as from nongovernmental organizations such as Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth, and Oxfam. The study group also includes organizations that promote socially responsible investing (SRI), such as the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and the Social Investment Forum (SIF). All of the study group members endorsed the recommendations as individuals, not as representatives of their companies or organizations.