In the first part of my column, I analysed the following international codes of conduct and standards: the UN Global Compact and the Global Reporting Initiative.
Here I will examine the other three that make up my top fove: AA1000 Series, OECO Guidelines for Muntinational Companoies, and Social Accountability 8000.
Description: The AA1000 Series is designed to assist companies, stakeholders, auditors, consultants and standard-setting bodies. AA1000 can be used in two ways: on its own or in conjunction with other corporate responsibility standards. It provides a road map for companies on key CR issues, explaining points of divergence and convergence with other major standards.
Founded in 1995, AccountAbility is a global organisation set up to promote accountability innovation for sustainable development.
The AA1000 Series includes three standards: AA1000APS Accountability Principles, AA1000AS Assurance Standard, AA1000SES Stakeholder Engagement Standard.
Unique Characteristics: The AA1000 Principles are compatible with the UN Global Compact, the GRI and ISO 26000. The AA1000 Assurance Standard can be used with audits of factory compliance with labour standards and carbon emissions.
Ups-and-Downs: The AA1000 Assurance Standard (a part of the series) is designed to cover assurance processes across the spectrum of sustainability issues. It is accessible on-line at no cost. The accessibility of the standard is important, as it facilitates consultation with stakeholders. A major challenge facing the field of assurance will be to build capacity among assurance providers.
OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
Description: The OECD guidelines address all aspects of corporate behaviour, from taxation and competition to consumer interests and science and technology. The guidelines are voluntary and non-binding. To fully understand the objectives of the guidelines, it is necessary to review the role of OCED.
Unique Characteristics: The OECD guidelines are among the most comprehensive of CR tools, addressing a range of issues unparalleled in any single CR instrument. The guidelines are a map for companies of the type of CR issues they may encounter. OECD requires each member state to appoint a National Contact Point (NCP) to promote the guidelines. The NCPs provide local infrastructure for the guidelines.
Ups-and-Downs: The guidelines encourage companies to “observe standards of employment and industrial relations not less favourable than those observed by comparable employers in the host country”. In many regions, observance of local norms would be insufficient to meet basic standards set by the International Labour Organisation. The words “not less favourable than” mean that companies are asked to observe the other recommendations on human rights, core labour standards and supply chain codes.
Social Accountability 8000
Description: Social Accountability 8000 is a global and verifiable standard designed to make workplaces more humane. The standard combines key elements of the ILO conventions with the management systems of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). SA8000 is a certification standard developed, overseen and updated through multi-stakeholder dialogue with trade unions, companies, NGOs and academics.
Unique Characteristics: SA8000’s management systems differentiate the standard from most codes of conduct and statements of intent. Management systems include the need for training programmes, communications, elected representatives, management reviews, control of suppliers, and planning and policies, among others.
Ups-and-Downs: SA8000 has been criticised for being too rigorous and by others for being too weak. Like other standards that include management systems, SA8000 is biased towards companies that have already established management systems. As such, it may be easier for large companies to implement SA8000 than for smaller companies.