Prof. Dr. Florian Wettstein, Director of the Institute for Business Ethics at the University of St. Gallen, recently published some "unsolicited advice" for business when it comes to managing their behavior and taking on an advocacy role in a human rights context. His advice is not only relevant for human rights, but for environmental and livelihood advocacy and impact as well. In particular, it can frame an integrated Creating Shared Value approach to business.
Here are the five principle steps he proposes to corporations working for good:
1) Be responsive. Don't be a moral crusader, just locate the issue and deal with it effectively. Wettstein says, "the yardstick for corporate advocacy is forming a global consensus that action, rather than inaction is needed by the company".
2) Collaborate. Work together with other institutions, including NGOs and activist groups.
A note from Rachel: This is a missed opportunity for numerous corporations and diversified organizations. Collaboration is the only way to build an eco-system allied with your objectives. And collaborations need time. Large organizations with deeply embedded routines and strong visions need to be open to discussing priorities, objectives, non-negotiables and methods with their allies. Only with enough time can multiple and diverse stakeholders reach organic agreements on a way forward suitable (and useful) for everyone at the table. It's also worth cross-checking at the end - does this solution really address the challenges we set out to tackle in the first place? Or is what we've built too much of a compromise? Did we just focus on our needs as organizations, or did we streamline our efforts to build useful social, environmental, and human rights based initiatives?
3) Be transparent. What you're doing should be trackable and traceable, and you need to be accountable.
4) Practice what you preach. Quite simply, Wettstein says "corporate advocacy is authentic only if the company supports the cause on a broader basis, through targeted action and in its own operations rather than only through words".
5) Be judicious. Wettstein says that when responding to incidents, businesses need to consider scale. How far does it reach? Who's affected? Businesses should consider how their practices tacitly enable unacceptable conditions to continue and locate clear points for intervention in their supply chains.