Hot topic

Companies no longer operate in isolation. Politicians, civil society organisations and consumers are demanding openness and transparency. They want companies to take responsibility for the ways in which their business operations affect people and the environment - close to home, as well as far away. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a hot topic now, in national as well as international businesses. More and more companies are setting out their CSR policies in a Code of Conduct.


Core business

CSR is much more than occasional support for development projects or projects in the local community. CSR relates to the actual business operations of companies: how do those operations impact on people and the environment? Companies should be held accountable for the consequences of their operations.


The CSR Platform, of which the Tropical Commodity Coalition is a member, defines CSR as follows: “CSR is a process in which corporations take responsibility for the social, ecological and economic consequences of their actions – throughout their product and service delivery chains – making themselves accountable, and engaging in a dialogue with all those involved”.


Chain responsibility

Supply chain responsibility is a key element of CSR. It means that companies also are responsible for production conditions at earlier points in the supply chain. This includes ensuring that their suppliers comply with labour regulations that employers, trade unions and government bodies have formulated in accordance with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards. Workers’ rights are also set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Besides these norms that focus primarily on governments, international norms and guidelines have been developed focusing on corporate responsibilities. These include the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises and the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy.


Code of Conduct

How should a socially responsible company behave? The ‘rules’ that socially responsible companies must observe are set out in Codes of Conduct. Some of these codes mean nothing - they are simply window dressing. Companies sometimes attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes by painting a picture that is rosier than the reality. Of course, there are very effective Codes of Conduct that often provide a framework for the rest of the sector.

An effective Code of Conduct