Though businesses may differ in many ways, one thing is clear; definitions of Corporate Responsibility (CR) tend to emphasise its voluntary nature, going beyond legal requirements to manage and enhance economics, environmental and social impacts.
For instance, The European Commission CR as “a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations on a voluntary basis.”
Incorporating CR into legislation
Three ways in which legislation can help your CR strategy:
Check what applies – review the legislation we’ve listed and ensure your business is meeting the obligations in full. In particular, if you are a business with under 250 employees, consider your growth trajectory and how this may impact the future demands placed on your business in the short term.
Make sure your reporting is up to scratch – if you are part of a public listed business ensure that you’re disclosing the right information in the public domain. Whilst it’s the law, it can still be done in a way that is engaging for stakeholders.
Engage in public policy consultations - get involved in shaping policy/commenting on government consultation papers advocating corporate responsibility, in a way that is consistent with your corporate vision and responsibilities.
This could now be starting to change. Elements of CR are increasingly being incorporated into legislation, creating a level playing field for companies.
A pertinent example is the gender pay gap: for many years, businesses were offered the opportunity to voluntarily disclose the difference in gender pay gap, yet very few did. According to BITC’s CR Index, only 22% of participants in 2015 are currently doing so despite Section 78 of the 2010 Equalities Act now making it mandatory for employers with over 250 employees to make public the gender pay gap in their workforce.
We’re also now seeing a similar trend with the announcement of a national Living Wage. Many forward thinking responsible businesses have long been looking at ways they support the lowest paid in their organisations but this recent move is likely to put additional pressure on those that have, so far, lagged behind.
BITC ahead of the legislative curve
In light of a changing regulatory backdrop for businesses, BITC will now be producing a regular briefing for its members to help them stay ahead of the legislative curve. In this first edition we’ve summarised the scope and main obligations of 5 key CR related pieces of legislation which affect how companies report, govern their organisations, work with their supply chains, and create diverse workforces.
Staying ahead is where it gets trickier. There is no silver bullet, but a clear focus on continually improving the standards your business operates to can give you the upper hand. You can ensure you stay ahead of the curve through, for example, benchmarking, and listening out for the tell-tale signs of change, or by staying close to trusted sources of information.