1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Markets, Business and Regulation

Business Responsibility for Sustainable Development

  • Project from: 2000 to 2005


Project Information:

The Business Responsibility for Sustainable Development project promoted research and policy dialogue on corporate social and environmental responsibility. It examined whether or not transnational corporations (TNCs) and other companies are taking meaningful steps to improve their social and environmental record, particularly in developing countries.

Considerable attention was focused on the effectiveness of "voluntary initiatives" such as codes of conduct, social and environmental reporting, certification, labelling, corporate social investment and improvements in environmental management systems. The following types of questions were addressed:
  • Is the TNC discourse on "corporate responsibility" being applied in practice?
  • Where progress is apparent, what types of pressures, incentives and institutional arrangements are promoting change?
  • Do voluntary initiatives and corporate self-regulation constitute an effective alternative to government and international regulation?
  • What are the implications for development in the South of efforts by TNCs and others to raise social and environmental standards?

The project involved fieldwork in Brazil, Chile, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Singapore and South Africa. Additional research on issues of international regulation of TNCs, company codes of conduct, multistakeholder standard-setting and certification schemes, UN-business partnerships and the corporate accountability movement, was also carried out.

The project produced numerous publications which are available online by clicking on 'Publications' on the right. This section includes links to book descriptions and ordering information, as well as to online versions of all programme papers and discussion papers produced throughout the course of the project. Conference reports and policy briefs are also included in this section.

This project was been partially funded by the MacArthur Foundation.