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BENCH MARKS FOUNDATION PRINCIPLES

Overview

The Principles for Global Corporate Responsibility: Bench Marks for Measuring Business Performance (Bench Marks) promotes positive corporate social responsibility consistent with the responsibility to sustain the human community and all creation. The Bench Marks calls for:
A new relationship between corporations, communities and ecosystems;
Support for a sustainable system of production and a more equitable system for the distribution of the economic benefits of production and environmental services;
Participation of stakeholders and those most affected by the activities of corporations in the decision-making processes of companies;
Preservation and protection of the environment for present and future generations.
Respect for the dignity of every person, for workers’ right to organize a union and bargain collectively and for all core labour rights as defined by the ILO;
Strong codes of conduct for corporations and suppliers independently monitored by local non-governmental and community organisations;
Affirmation of indigenous peoples’ right to full participation in the business decisions which pertain to their ancestral lands and their way of life;
Human rights policies based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
Commitment to the principle of workers’ right of access to health care, accessible and affordable medicines, including anti-retrovirals for the treatment of AIDS.
Corporate governance policies that balance the sometimes competing interests of managers, employees, shareholders and communities; and that are based on ethical values, including inclusivity, integrity, honesty, justice and transparency.
This document is offered to groups working on corporate social responsibility, to workers and to companies seeking to respond to the challenges of doing business in the global economy in a socially responsible manner. Our long-range goal is to transform the way corporations relate to people, communities and the environment. We invite people of all faiths and beliefs to engage in and contribute to the promotion of the principles articulated in the Bench Marks. We believe the broad involvement of a variety of individuals and institutions will deepen the values of corporate responsibility and accountability that will restore human dignity and the integrity of creation.

Introduction

We acknowledge that the different forms of exclusion, impoverishment and marginalisation are a result of inequitable social relations. Ecological degradation and social deprivation threaten the survival of human society. This document and its accompanying processes approaches the questions of the responsibility of corporations with the expectations of a Global Network of people and communities who hold these concerns as central to their agenda:
a demand for a sustainable system of production and distribution and for the preservation of the environment for present communities and for future generations;
an appeal for a more equitable system for the distribution of the economic benefit of production and services;
an insistence for the participation of stakeholders and those most hurt by the activities of corporations in the decision-making processes of companies;
a requirement for the creation of an awareness that corporations need to consider not only the response of consumers to their activities but that of all those who are stakeholders in their operations.
a requirement for the opportunities of life and freedom for all humanity;
To meet these principles we believe that it is necessary that certain specific courses of action are followed when corporations are conducting their managerial functions in order that those who are affected directly or indirectly by them will be considered and represented.
COMMITTEE MECHANISMS
We will wish to make an assessment of these principles by checking that the company has in place a communication and reporting system which:

allows for a two-way communication strategy involving a top-down reporting pattern on challenges and progress and bottom-up reporting on concerns and issues;
allows for interaction with communities and other stakeholders;
allows for the creation of corporate committees with proportional representation of all the stakeholders.
REPORTING FRAMEWORK
At several points in our framework we join the call for verified public reporting on company performance, whether on environmental, social or financial issues. At a minimum we would expect such reporting instruments to include the following that:
the reporting is rooted and grounded in transparent disclosure;
the information disclosed is directly related to the communities at sites of impact to facilitate their participation;
independent monitoring and verification processes include a role for non-governmental organisations, for workers and for community organisations;
additional demands for disclosure impinge on companies operating in zones of conflict;
the outcomes of corporate reporting are incorporated into strategic planning and participatory decision-making;
the range of social performance indicators embraces, at the least, the principles outlined in this document.

ETHICAL PRACTICE
The responsibility for ethical performance resides with the whole corporate enterprise and not merely with the individuals who compose it. We therefore are seeking ways in which corporations can be held accountable for the totality of the impact of their operations on people and communities in such a way as to address fully the fundamental aspirations we put forward.
In our understanding of global corporate responsibility, the community rather than the company is the starting point of economic life. For the community to be sustainable, all members need to be recognized i.e. consumers, employees, shareholders, the community at large and corporations. Respect for each group’s essential role in the economic and social life of the community will facilitate more just relationships locally and globally.

In this document, by:

PRINCIPLES we mean a statement of business philosophy fundamental to a responsible company’s actions.
CRITERIA we mean particular company policies and practices that can be compared for consistency with the Principles.
BENCH MARKS we mean suggested specific reference points of measurement to be used in assessing the company’s performance in relation to the Criteria.
For reasons of clarity the categories under which the Principles are defined are divided into two groupings:
The Wider Community and
The Corporate Business Community.
The Principles are offered as an ethical standard of measurement on which to base decisions about global corporate social responsibility. They arise from jointly held beliefs, which are based on the faiths of the participant groups, communities, denominations and traditions. The concepts stem from an understanding of the ethical value of creation, humanity and the nature of society.

Principles for Global Corporate Responsibility

The Bench Marks is one of the most comprehensive sets of social and environmental criteria and business performance indicators available. The starting point of the Bench Marks is the recognition that society is made up of diverse interest groups, and that all life is interdependent, and to sustain the earth, we need to see the linkages between production, resources, environment and our eco-system, people and communities.
The Bench Marks was developed by a global network of faith-based partner organisations and is based on a body of internationally recognised human rights, labour and environmental standards and principles.

Corporations will find the indicators presented in the Bench Marks useful for developing and monitoring corporate codes of conduct, particularly when managing relations with stakeholder bodies. Civil society organisations, stakeholders and investors will find the indicators useful for assessing corporate conduct.

The Bench Marks Principles is a joint project of ECCR (UK), the Bench Marks Foundation (South Africa), ICCR (USA) and KAIROS (Canada).

The Wider Community (PDF - 55Kb)
The Corporate Business Community (PDF - 99.2Kb)
The Context of Faith

The purpose of the Principles for Global Corporate Responsibility: Bench Marks for Measuring Business Performance is to promote positive corporate social responsibility consistent with the responsibility required to sustain the human community and all creation.
From a perspective of faith, the context for all human activity is the totality of creation. Therefore, we need to use our power to live in harmony with creation, affirm the interdependence of everything on earth and the dignity of all parts of creation.

However, we recognize the breakdown of the social fibre resulting from the:

polarization of rich and poor;
undermining of the integrity of human dignity;
destruction of the integrity of creation;
and, human greed as evidenced in over-consumption and disproportionate wealth accumulation for the few.
Therefore, we offer our context of faith as a basis for engaging the corporate community in the process of building sustainable communities founded on the values of justice. Faith communities evaluate companies, not only by what they produce and their impact on the environment, but also by how companies contribute to sustainable community and protect or undermine the dignity of the human person. We believe these companies carry responsibility for the human and moral consequences of their economic decisions.
We believe the challenge for both companies and individuals in the global economy is to ensure that the distribution of economic benefits is equitable, supports sustainable community and preserves the integrity of creation.

We believe the promotion and protection of human rights – civil, political, social, religious, cultural and economic – are minimum standards for all social institutions, including companies.

We believe all people and institutions have a responsibility to work for a just society marked by love, compassion and peace. Justice requires that we stand with those oppressed by poverty and exploitation and we work to change the structures and policies that support their oppression. Justice also requires that the allocation of income, wealth and power be evaluated in the light of their impact on the poorest and most vulnerable in the world.

We invite people of all faiths and beliefs to engage in and contribute to the promotion of the principles and values articulated in this document. We believe the broad involvement of a variety of individuals and institutions will deepen the values of corporate responsibility and accountability that will restore human dignity, the integrity of creation and the social order.

The Global Reality (PDF - 57.4Kb)
Summary

CONTEXT OF FAITH Justice requires that we stand with those oppressed, impoverished and exploited and we work to change the structures and policies in order to create a fair and sustainable world.

THE GLOBAL REALITY This section deals with the political and economic influences, the impact of militarism and the technological impacts of our global reality.

INTRODUCTION In our understanding of global corporate responsibility, the community rather than the company is the starting point of economic life. For the community to be sustainable, all members need to be recognized i.e. consumers, employees, shareholders, the community at large and corporations. Respect for each group’s essential role in the economic and social life of the community will facilitate more just relationships locally and globally.

Throughout the document, by Principles we mean a statement of business philosophy fundamental to a responsible company’s actions. By Criteria we mean particular company policies and practices that can be compared for consistency with the Principles. By Bench Marks we mean specific reference points of measurement to be used in assessing the company’s performance in relation to the Criteria.

THE WIDER COMMUNITY Ecosystems: Careful attention is paid to ensure that the company’s actions do not damage the global environment. Central issues include climate change, biodiversity, genetically modified organisms and pollution prevention. National Communities: The company, in all its locations, holds it to be the responsibility of every employee to ensure that there is full compliance with all internationally recognized human rights, labour, health and safety standards. Local Communities: Each company recognizes its political and economic impact on local communities especially where it is the principal employer. Its programs, policies and practices should serve as a vehicle for advancing a full range of human rights within each country where they operate. Indigenous Communities: The company is committed to respecting fully the rights of indigenous peoples as they are recognized by the appropriate jurisdictions and laws, and seeks and receives approval from local indigenous communities and leadership prior to beginning any business activities.

THE CORPORATE BUSINESS COMMUNITY Employees – Conditions: The company has a global standard governing its employment practices and industrial relations, which includes: genuine respect for employees’ right to freedom of association, labour organization, free collective bargaining; non-discrimination in employment; no violation of the rights of children; payment of a sustainable living wage with equal remuneration for work of equal value; a healthy working environment free from all forms of harassment and work schedules that are reasonable and enable employees and their families to live in a sustained and healthy manner.

Suppliers and Contractors: The company is responsible for the labour conditions under which its products and services are produced, provided, advertised or marketed under licensing agreement. The company accepts independent monitoring of its suppliers by local non-governmental and/or community organizations and adopts a transparent policy to make the internal investigation of complaints and results of internal and independent monitoring available to the public. The company affirms the concept of joint responsibility with suppliers for the additional costs of compliance with ILO labour standards, national law and the company’s code of conduct. The company provides on-going free and compensated education and training for workers.

Financial Integrity: The company is committed to transparency in all its accounting and financial reporting statements and communications with shareholders through its compliance with independent auditing and financial reporting principles.

Ethical Integrity: The company directly addresses issues of justice in line with criteria developed and endorsed by workers and stakeholders as part of its financial, social and environmental reporting.

Corporate Governance: The company’s governance structure is based on ethical values, including inclusivity, integrity, honesty, justice and transparency.

Shareholders: The company’s corporate governance policies balance the interests of managers, employees, shareholders, and other company stakeholders. It neither restricts nor obstructs the legal rights of shareholders.

Joint Ventures/Partnerships/Subsidiaries: All parts of the company, associated companies, divisions, units and subsidiary companies abide by the same codes of ethics and conduct as the parent company as a minimum standard.

Customers and Consumers: All advertisement and labeling of products is complete, fair and honest. Only claims which can be substantiated and fulfilled are made by the company, its employees and its agents. The company does not market products, which denigrate or supplant sustainable natural products, nor produce them under conditions where human rights, labour rights and environmental standards are violated.

APPENDIX Contains references to key international documents and resources to measure business performance on social environmental and economic issues..

Index of Issues
Advertising 1.2.B.12  |  1.3.C.7  |  1.4.B.4 : 2.4.P.2  |  2.10.C.2  |   2.10.C.7  |  2.10.B.1
Agriculture 1.1.P.7  |  1.1.P.9  |  1.1.C.12  |  1.1.B.12
Annual Meetings 2.8.C.2  |  2.8.B.3
Arms Trade/Manufacturing 1.2.P.11-12  |  1.2.C.12-13  |  1.2.B.14-17
Audits/Auditing 1.1.C.5  |  1.1.B.8  |  1.2.B.16 2.3d.B.1  |  2.4.B.4  |   2.5.P.3  |  2.5.C.1  |  2.5.B.1  |  2.8.B.2
Bio-cultural Integrity 1.4.P.5  |  1.4.B.2
Bio-diversity 1.1.P.1  |  1.4.B.2
Board of Directors 1.1.C.2  |  1.2.C.6  |  1.2.B.1  |  1.2.B.8 2.5.B.3  |  2.6.P.1  |   2.6.C.1  |  2.7.P.3  |  2.7.C.3  |  2.7.B.3
Breastmilk Substitutes 1.2.B.5 2.2.B.1
Bribery 2.5.P.2  |  2.5.B.2
Cartels 2.10.C.5  |  2.10.B.4
Child Care 2.1.P.10  |  2.1.C.9  |   2.3a.B.4  |  2.3a.B.5
Child Labour Sub-Section 2.3d  |  2.4.C.1  |  2.4.B.6
Climate Change 1.1.P.1
Codes of Conduct 1.1.C.1  |  1.2.B.3  |  1.2.B.5 2.2.B.1  |  2.3d.B.1  |   2.4.P.3  |  2.4.C.1-3  |  2.4.B.1  |  2.4.B.3 2.4.B.6  |  2.4.B.9  |   2.6.P.1  |  2.6.C.1  |  2.8.B.1-2 2.9.P.2-3  |  2.9.C.2  |   2.9.B.1-2  |  2.10.B.1  |  2.10.B.3
Collective Bargaining 2.1.P.1  |  2.1.C.10  |  2.1.B.2-3  |  2.4.C.1
Community Rights / Assets 1.1.P.3  |  1.1.P.8  |   1.1.C.4  |  1.5.P.4
Compensation (Injury, damage, etc.) 1.2.B.5  |  1.4.C.5  |   1.5.C.3  |  1.5.B.3 2.2.B.1
Compliance 1.1.C.9 2.3c.C.1  |  2.3d.B.1  |  2.4.C.3  |  2.4.C.5  |  2.4.B.4  |  2.4.B.6-8  |  2.5.P.3  |  2.10.B.1
Corporate Governance Section 2.7  |  2.8.P.2  |  2.8.B.1
Customers & Consumers 1.1.C.14  |  1.1.B.14
Disabilities, Persons with Sub-Section 2.3c  |   2.1.C.1  |  2.3a.B.5
Disclosure of Information 1.1.B.6  |  1.2.C.6  |  1.2.B.9  |  1.2.B.16  |  1.5.C.5 2.5.C.3  |  2.5.B.3 * 2.7.B.2  |  2.10.B.1
Discrimination / Diversity Sub-Section 2.3a  |  Sub-Section 2.3b  |  Sub-Section 2.3c 1.3.P.2  |  1.3.B.1 2.1.P.1-2  |  2.1.C.1  |  2.1.C.4  |  2.1.C.10  |  2.1.C.18 2.1.B.1  |  2.1.B.3  |   2.2.C.3  |  2.2.C.5  |  2.4.C.1  |  2.7.P.1 2.7.C.3
Drug Companies 1.2.C.8
Elder Care 2.1.P.10  |  2.1.C.9  |   2.3a.B.4-5
Appendices and Website References
Glossary of Terms (PDF - 41Kb)