NGOs team up in lobbying push for global CSR treaty

A group of four leading non-governmental organisations 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, Save the Children (UK), Cafod and the New Economics Foundation are pressing for the move ahead of the summit in Johannesburg later this summer.

The organisations have launched a campaign to demand an internationally-binding convention requiring companies to adopt best practice and account for the environmental and social damage caused by their business.

FoE media co-ordinator Ian Willmore said the campaign was brought about by concern that governments lack scope to regulate the behaviour of large companies.

'Essentially the development of world trade has outrun governments' ability to regulate it,' he said.

The CSR treaty is one of the goals that NGOs, including Greenpeace, are campaigning for in the run-up to the summit. Other targets include ensuring food safety and non-intensive agriculture, forcing industrialised countries to recognise their 'carbon debt' and regulating the sources of timber exports.

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 added that talks were underway to persuade the UK government of the merits of both an international CSR treaty and the Private Members Bill being put forward by Ilford North MP (Lab) 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 act.

The stumbling block to any treaty this year is likely to be US opposition.

Willmore said: 'The Bush administration is not known for going against the interests of big business. It's unlikely the Earth Summit will agree to this because of US reluctance.'

The French arm of ExxonMobil has commenced legal proceedings against Greenpeace for misuse of its Esso logo in the 'Stop Esso' campaign.

The firm is seeking to stop the use of the logo or win damages of £52,000 per day for its continued use.

Leader, p10.

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