International Frameworks of CSR and Sustainability, Global Compact, OECD, Caux Round Table

All aspects of doing business – procurement, production and sales – are part of globally integrated structures, often putting them outside the influence of exclusively national legislation. But how can we make sure that in such a world the profit of one person does not result from harming somebody else? To this end, international organisations have developed guidelines that offer globally active companies guidance and are designed to ensure that social and environmental responsibility are part of the equation.

Human rights are at the heart of the debate, and so is the question of which tools can be deployed to make sure that they are respected. In 2011, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations adopted concrete guidelines for action, the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, intended to move beyond the debate on voluntary versus binding instruments in the area of human rights. The Guiding Principles rest on three pillars:-

  1. The state duty to protect
  2. The corporate responsibility to respect
  3. Access to remedy

The first pillar describes the obligation of states to actively contribute to preventing human rights violations by companies, while the second pillar deals directly with the responsibilities of companies. This responsibility comprises not only a company’s own activities, but also all relevant business relationships, e.g. the supply chain. The third pillar sets out how access to remedy and complaint mechanisms can be ensured in cases of human rights violations.

In a Green Paper published in 2001, CSR was defined as a “concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with stakeholders on a voluntary basis (European Commission, 2001).” And in a Communication issued in 2002 it was said that “CSR is behaviour by businesses over and above legal requirements, voluntarily adopted because businesses deem it to be in their long-term interest (European Commission, 2002).”

This definition has become a standard in Europe and a reference worldwide. The international framework for CSR continues to change via initiatives by international organizations including:-

  • The United Nations,
  • The International Labour Organization,
  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,
  • The European Union.


As for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, they offer a comprehensive code of conduct designed to provide multinational enterprises (MNEs) with guidance and support in their interactions with trade unions and in the areas of environmental protection, the fight against corruption and respect of the interests of consumers. The Guidelines also contain recommendations on overseas investment and cooperation with foreign suppliers. They were lastupdated in 2011, adding to the sections on human rights and due diligence obligations (responsibility for the actions of suppliers and business partners).

The Guidelines were developed by the OECD member states in cooperation with companies, trade unions and civil society as recommendations for companies. Their application is voluntary. However, the States Parties are obliged to promote the Guidelines, which are the only mulilaterally agreed and comprehensive code of conduct for corporate social responsibility. This is the job of the National Contact Points (NCPs). The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, and more precisely its division VC3, acts as Germany’s NCP.


As Stephen Young, the Executive Director of the Caux Round Table has written, “the challenge of moral capitalism is to tip the balance of wealth creation toward humanity’s more noble possibilities and away from the dynamics of more brutish behavior.”

The Caux Round Table stands for movement from aspiration to action. We straddle the ideals of principles and of ethical concern for the common good and the practical needs of businesses and governments to “get it right” in their actions and decisions. To facilitate implementation of a more moral capitalism, the Caux Round Table provides decision-making guidelines in the form of principles for business, principles for governments, principles for NGOs, and principles for the owners of wealth. The Caux Round Table futher provides a comprehensive risk assessment approach to CSR and stakeholder relationships, Arcturus, and a way of encourageing individuals to reflect on their decision-making styles to move from self-centered frameworks to stakeholder frameworks in business and public policy decision-making. We also provide educational programs for company directors, CSR certificates, and handbooks on CSRT for small and medium size enterprises and on the practice of moral government.

Our VISION is for a world with – Rising Living Standards, Social Justice and Human Dignity for All Our vision is all about being obsessed with better possibilities for all. This vision is not small; to facilitate change for the better in humanity’s ability to raise living standards, provide for social justice and realize the fullness of individual human dignity in all our days is a challenge of massive proportions but it is a challenge we readily accept. To achieve it, we will have to inspire and lead with inspiration and courage.

  • To promote moral capitalism and responsible government
  • To ensure greater prosperity, sustainability and fairness in a global economy.

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