The United Kingdom is no closer to a comprehensive legal regulatory framework than other advanced nations. Let us overview the measures already adopted and those in the pipeline in United Kingdom and their implications. The UK government’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) website proclaims, “We have an ambitious vision for UK businesses to consider the economic, social and environmental impacts of their activities, wherever they operate in the world” (www.csr.gov.uk). Consistent with its mission statement, the CSR engages in advocacy activities so that business corporations will adopt a sustainable model of growth and development. To help businesses with this transition, the CSR offers policies and institutional frameworks that encourage companies to adhere to the highest ethical standards. The CSR also provides substantial incentives for those companies that accept and adopt newer (and more just) regulations. The framework of CSR is very broad and it includes environmental protection, health and safety and workplace rights. The founding of an organization such as the CSR is in itself recognition of the fact that the responsibilities of business corporations need be extended to include public interests. Since CSR is not a government department in itself, it collaborates with other existing government institutions for policy initiatives. For example, in association with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs the CSR has initiated a handful of projects for sustainable commerce and environmental protection. In association with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform a programme called “The business case for CSR” has been initiated. The programme is aimed at corporate decision makers and attempts to convince them through rational argument. In total, the CSR works with 14 government departments and has initiated nearly a 100 projects and programmes so far. The success of these programmes and projects is very crucial. Upon it lies the economic and social welfare of the future generations of people in the UK. (White, p.175)
The environment and corporate social responsibility movement has already had an impact on legislations in the UK. For instance, the Pensions Act (amended in 2001), “requires trustees of occupational pension schemes to state their policy regarding the extent to which social, environmental or ethical considerations are taken into account in the selection, retention and realisation of investments” (Ferran, p.124). The Companies Act (enacted in 2006) requires corporations to comply by the proposed regulatory framework and drives home the point “that directors will be more likely to achieve long term sustainable success for the benefit of their shareholders if their companies pay appropriate regard to wider matters such as the environment and their employees” (Ferran, p.124). When Global Reporters Survey published its findings in 2006, the results showed companies in UK in a kinder light. The UK business community as a whole were placed in third place for their consistency and accuracy in reporting “all costs and benefits” of their business activities. This shows that the spirit of Corporate Social Responsibility is catching up fast and that business corporations are able to see their operations from a broader perspective. This trend needs to continue in the future too, so that the true implications of business activities do not get buried under an impressive facade of profits. Even a few defaulting companies can negate all other positive developments. In other words, the collective conscience of corporate decision makers has to change unanimously (Ferran, p.124).
Apart from the legislative measures, companies in the UK are also voluntarily adopting a set Code of Ethics, which reflects its approach to business. These sets of self-imposed rules originate from the corporate social responsibility of business corporations. It also defines the values and standards by which the company conducts its business. It provides all stakeholders with a clear understanding of the procedures and processes at various levels of the organization. In other words it acts as the road map or set of guidelines to help the firm in acting and conducting itself in a socially and commercially acceptable manner. A well designed code of ethics will help highlight the resources available to achieve various goals set at the personal and corporate levels. A good code of ethics document will inspire confidence in all business associates – like suppliers, clients and employees. More importantly, it will also win the trust of the general public. (Shiner, p.10)