Ethical Europe Emerging?

Social and environmental reporting is catching on fast in France according to Ethical Performance, an independent monthly UK newsletter for socially responsible business.
A New Economic Regulations Bill took effect in early January and asks public companies to include information in their annual reports “on the way in which they take into account the social and environmental consequences of their activity”. Hitherto non-financial reporting in France was almost non- existent. The new law is expected to change French reporting practice substantially. It’s believed the move will encourage other European countries to follow suit.
The UK government is already considering recommendations from company law review which calls for public corporations to produce “operating and financial reviews” covering social and environmental issues in annual reports. And pressure on UK businesses to behave responsibly has intensified following the publication of guidelines from the Association of British Insurers on how companies should report on the social and environmental risks they face. The ABI wants boards to take “regular account of the significance of social, environmental and ethical matters to the business of the company” and prove to investors that they are doing this.
This suggestion implies that businesses will have to show how slurs on social and environmental records could potentially affect company’s value in the short- and long-term plus requirement to show how “opportunities to enhance value that may arise from an appropriate response” could be used.
The Association says annual reports should describe company policies and procedures for managing CSR risks, and that companies failing to produce policy must explain why.
The guidelines also encourage investors to look for credible evidence that company has complied with its stated CSR policies, and the Association sees independent external verification as “highly significant advantage”. The ABI is hardly small fry. Its members invest £1.1 trillion in the UK stock market – quarter of its value.
As one head of UK-based consultancy commented: “The fact that body as big and influential as the ABI has done this is highly significant. I think it will make businesses in the UK that are doing little bit on CSR do more.”
Finally in the world of business ethics and CSR, new survey undertaken in the UK of consumers in their 30s and 40s – this age demographic has an estimated spending power of £4.5 billion per year – found that two thirds of the group are thought to have boycotted brands because of perceived “unethical behaviour”.
The survey was undertaken by Quentin Bell Organisation, public relations firm. One thousand consumers were interviewed. Nike beware! The survey revealed that only five percent of those who said they had boycotted brands, would ever go back to buying their products, while 10 percent said they would lobby companies with petitions and letters.
QBO chairman Trevor Morris thinks the figures suggest that those in their 30s and 40s are most aware of their own value as customers and aware of their ability to make or break company.
The study also found that younger consumers are less concerned about the ethicality of organisations they shop from. Only third said they’d boycotted company for unethical actions. And it seems women are twice as likely to be consumer activists than are men. QBO said men are more cynical than women about ethical matters, with more than one-fifth of males willing to patronise business regardless of its actions.

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