The recovery from the Great Recession has been slow and arduous, and has at times threatened to derail altogether.

Are global companies improving their environmental, social and governance performance? There is good reason to be optimistic, though there is much work to be done.  

The collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, killing over a thousand workers, was not just a human tragedy. The ready-made garments sector is hugely important in Bangladesh, both economically and socially. This gives dealing with the Rana Plaza aftermath even greater importance. 

On 24 April 2013 the Rana Plaza, a commercial building and garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed, claiming some 1,130 lives and injuring thousands more. The shock was felt globally. How could this happen? Who was to blame? If the building was not fit for purpose, why was it being used? How could such a disaster be prevented from happening again?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer just a marketing buzzword but has become a mainstream part of business operations in companies the world over. From so-called triple bottom line accounting through legal frameworks to stock market indices that reward responsible business conduct on social and environmental fronts, company values increasingly reflect CSR values too. But what of their global supply chains, do they hold the same high values? How can multinational companies in particular be sure that the myriad firms they source from in poorer countries do not cut corners with people’s lives or the environment? The death toll from the collapse of the brand-driven Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013 was another tragic reminder that for CSR to have real value, much more needs to be done.

In this OECD Observer roundtable, we asked a range of stakeholders, from government, business, labour and civil society, for their views:

“What actions are you taking to encourage responsible business conduct and what new steps do you think are needed to strengthen corporate social responsibility worldwide?”

Carlos Ghosn, Nissan boss ©Reuters

Non-nationals are starting to make an impact in top Japanese firms. But will other firms take notice? Changes in education would help.

When G20 regulators met in Pittsburgh in September 2009–it had taken them a full year to react to the collapse of Lehman Brothers–they set out an ambitious financial reform agenda. No stone would be left unturned, no shadow in the banking system unexposed. Action would cover all financial market segments and players, and lessons would be learned from the crisis to ensure that the 2008 debacle never happened again.

Obama getting through

Major events, like the Great East Japan earthquake or indeed the euro crisis, can have important ripple effects that spread well beyond the areas immediately concerned. More recently, the budget crisis that resulted in the shutdown of large parts of the US government and public services has raised the spectre of a default, the first in the country’s history.

In 1994, a simple disagreement in a marketplace in Ghana over the price of a guinea fowl turned ugly. The quarrel led to the violent death of one person, which provoked subsequent killings and then escalated into a cycle of revenge attacks. The dispute quickly grew to become what is today known as the Guinea Fowl War. By the time the Ghanaian military restored order, more than 400 villages had been burned and over 15 000 people are thought to have been killed.

Cell number

South Africa’s former president, Nelson Mandela, holds up a mobile phone in London, 21 October 2003. Using his old convict number 46664 from Robben Island, Mr Mandela helped launch a global phone and internet campaign to raise awareness about AIDs. Originally published in OECD Observer No 240/241, December 2003

Read "President Nelson Mandela: Some personal reflections", by Ian Goldin, Professor of Globalisation and Development, and Director, Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford

See also www.oecd.org/southafrica/

"Building more trust between companies and tax authorities will help inform the current public discussion of tax issues, creating a more fruitful conversation about tax policy choices for the 21st century."

©Isaac Kasamani/AFP

Several efforts and interventions have been directed towards resolving the myriad issues that impinge on peace, security and development in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Insecurity and conflict hinder human, and economic development. The Saharo-Sahelian region today presents some of the most daunting global security threats, which seriously undermine the stability and development of the region. The 2012-2013 crisis in northern Mali, though centred in one nation, epitomises the wider, cross-border dimension of these challenges. Here we point to some of the available policy responses towards their resolution.

Promoting inclusive growth; rebuilding trust; fostering sustainability: these were the three themes that drove discussions at the annual OECD Forum in May 2013. Since 2000 the OECD Forum has become a major stakeholder summit and is the traditional curtain raiser of OECD Week, being held in conjunction with the Ministerial Council Meeting. The public event provides an opportunity for people from all countries and backgrounds–business, labour, civil society, students and academics, as well as ministers–to debate and understand global challenges and to feed their views into the ministerial discussions. This year some 1,520 participants from 63 countries engaged with 176 speakers to discuss a range of pressing global issues, while millions more were able to participate online.

©G20 Russia 2013

The Russian Federation took over the G20 presidency on 1 December 2012, a time when all international organisations and countries had downgraded their growth forecasts for the year ahead. Against this background and the need for urgent and co-ordinated policy action to put the recovery back on track, we decided to refocus the G20 agenda on the issue of growth and jobs, and to work on very concrete actions and commitments for G20 leaders to discuss and possibly endorse at the Saint Petersburg summit in September 2013.

One of the biggest targets for reform in the pursuit of leaner government budgets is public sector pay and performance. Because of the crisis, some countries have frozen or even reduced salaries, while others have preferred to reduce benefits, even pensions. Others have decided to do nothing for the moment.

Trust comes from within

Russians are becoming increasingly active in the country’s social arena. While activists remain a small but growing and visible minority of citizens looking for changes in governance, many more are becoming involved in the day-to-day affairs of their communities. 

More...

Whether you blame poor regulation, sloppy governance, greed or bad luck, banks were frontline culprits in causing the crisis. Governments have been working on reforms to fix the financial sector and improve governance, but a lot more work remains to be done. Some OECD principles can help.

©Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Fixing finance

There are good reasons why the public has lost confidence in banking and finance. Two issues in particular must be addressed before it can be restored– moral hazard and conflict of interest. Reforms should ensure that banks and bankers–not taxpayers–pay the price of failure and are held fully accountable for their actions.

More...

©Vanderlei Almeida/AFP

Growth is not enough

Brazil’s labour leaders have long argued against pursuing economic growth for its own sake. What matters most, they believe, is not the size of the economic pie but how it’s carved up. In recent years, calls for social justice have increasingly informed policy in Brazil, bringing about a veritable “revolution” in the economy.

More...

The current crisis has continued to affect people’s lives across the world, and nowhere is this more evident than in the deteriorating labour market in many countries. Young people have been hit particularly hard and risk being permanently scarred from joblessness and even exclusion.

This year the parliaments of two OECD member countries passed legislation broadening the institution of marriage to include same sex couples. Such marriage is now legal in 14 countries worldwide, 11 of which are OECD members.

©DR

A recipe for trust

Have the policy errors that contributed to the global economic crisis been rectified? Sharan Burrow, who heads the International Trade Union Confederation, shares her vision for building trust and restoring confidence in the countries still suffering from the crisis.

More...

©Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

The cost of mistrust

Trust is at the heart of today’s complex global economy. But, paradoxically, trust is also in increasingly short supply in many of our societies, especially in our attitudes towards big business, parliaments and governments. This decline threatens our capacity to tackle some of today’s key challenges.

More...

© OCDE

How to get it right

Austerity programmes to restore order to public finances can add to the woes of already struggling economies, leading to more job losses and social hardship. But there are ways for governments to put their fiscal houses in order, while supporting growth and reducing income inequality at the same time.

More...

What the BEPS are we talking about?

Bloomberg’s “The Great Corporate Tax Dodge”, The New York Times’ “But Nobody Pays That” and the Guardian’s “Tax Gap”: these are some examples of the wide media attention given to global tax issues in recent weeks. The public is understandably becoming alarmed, since what is at issue is how profit shifting by multinationals is eroding their national tax bases. OECD initiatives on tax policy can help.

More ...


 

©DR

Climate change won't wait

The European Union may be facing some difficult economic challenges, but that's no excuse for not acting now to create an economy based on resource efficiency and low-carbon development. The benefits are potentially enormous, including lower greenhouse gas emissions, more efficient use of energy and resources, and rising growth and innovation.

More...

©REUTERS/Mike Segar

A major step forward towards putting the measurement of well-being at the heart of policymaking was taken at the OECD’s World Forum on Measuring Well-Being for Policymaking and Development, a four-day international conference held in New Delhi in October.

Science and technology play a central role in our society. They are part of everybody’s life, they help to tackle the grand challenges of humankind and they create innovation and jobs and improve quality of life. Science and technology are part of our culture, and in essence define us as a species that “wants to know”–hence why we are called Homo sapiens. But do we really give science its proper value when it comes to taking political decisions?

People looking for models of public governance reform may not immediately think of France, but perhaps they should think again. In July 2007, France launched a reform programme called “General Review of Public Policies” (Révision Générale des Politiques Publiques, RGPP). Implemented at central government level, it adopts a novel approach that could prove a useful model for other OECD countries.

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