LONDON: A group of four leading UK non-governmental organizations is lobbying for an international treaty on corporate social responsibility, as NGOs step up their campaigns ahead of August's Earth Summit.
Friends of the Earth (FoE), Save the Children UK, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, and the New Economics Foundation are pressing for the move ahead of the summit in Johannesburg later this summer.
The organizations have launched a campaign to demand an internationally binding convention requiring companies to adopt best practices, and account for the environmental and social damage caused by their business.
FoE media coordinator Ian Willmore said the campaign was brought about by concern that governments lack scope to regulate the behavior of large companies.
"Essentially, the development of world trade has outrun government's ability to regulate it, he said.
Willmore said members throughout the world were being called upon to take part in a lobbying effort: "Globally, the campaign is being raised by all of our national groups and other NGOs, he said, adding that talks were underway to persuade the UK government of the merits of both an international CSR treaty and a Private Members Bill being put forward by Labour Party MP Linda Perham.
While Willmore admits this year's proposals are unlikely to bear fruit, he believes that in the long term, companies will have little option but to clean up their acts. He said that the stumbling block to any treaty this year is likely to be US opposition. "The Bush administration is not known for going against the interests of big business, he said. "It's unlikely the Earth Summit will agree to this because of US reluctance."