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Traceability in action

How much do companies know about their supply chains? And how can they discover more?

See my report on in traceability in action here.

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Data privacy: are human rights for sale?

How do you balance privacy and transparency? When they conflict, which should win?

See my post here on C&E Advisory’s website.

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Can you trace your responsibilties?

Here is my ACCA blog post on traceability.

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A living concern

If the entire earth were a business, what would it be worth? That is one of the central ideas of ‘What’s the point of capitalism?‘ a new ebook by Joss Tantram.

The analysis is a good read and the issue important. This is the first in a series questioning how 9 billion people – the population we are headed to – can live on the earth.

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Natural capital? But who owns it?

Here is my post about the ownership of natural capital on the ICAEW website.

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Quantitative Pleasing – how many is too much

The ICAEW have published my report on the perils of quantification and what can be done about it. Using the examples social and natural capital, it sets out guidelines for when and how quantification should be attempted – and what to do when it should not be done.

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announcements commentary

SROI – at the awkward adolescent stage?

The SROI methodology for valuing impacts is coming of age. But it is a difficult age which begs important questions. The biggest question is perhaps the presumption that a valuation can be achieved through assigning quantitative financial values to any kind of impact.

After that, perhaps the next most important is: what should it be used for? The current choice is to help mission-driven organisations produce a fairly quick evaluation of the difference they make in the world. It does that well, even if there remain a number of questions about how it goes about that task.

However there are two other huge areas to which SROI could make a difference, although that would require a modification of its methods. One such area is the social impact of mainstream companies. Where ordinary commercial interests and value flows are a large part of the impact, an SROI-like methodology must confront the question of what the total impact of an organisation is, rather than only what difference it makes. The technical reasons for that I have spelt out in an blog on the Social Value International website.

The other big area is public policy-making. As Daniel Fujiwara has pointed out with some care, the adoption of an SROI-like methodology in policy-making circles would require SROI to adopt the kind of rigour that underlies current cost-benefit analyses.

So, a bit like an adolescent, SROI needs to decide exactly what it wants to do in the world.

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announcements commentary

Is reporting child's play?

The ACCA has recently published a report on the reporting of child rights issues, in which I was involved.

The abuse of child rights is one of the most serious issues that a company can face. More than any other it has the potential to bring down any organisation associated with it. That is because the issue is so serious and the children concerned so vulnerable.

The reporting of child rights issues is perhaps one step removed, but nevertheless a crucial piece of the corporate accountability puzzle. ACCA’s paper starts from the relatively poor state of child rights reporting, acknowledging that few companies report much more than on the policy they have adopted on the issue.

The next step was to look at the role that reporting standards play in supporting child rights reporting. Overall the findings were that, with the exception of the GRI, the support that the main reporting standards provide is quite limited. While all the main standards (IIRC, Shift, GRI) are obviously consistent with transparent reporting on the issue, there is little explicit support. However the GRI is different since it has published more detailed guidelines in association with UNICEF.

ACCA also convened a roundtable to discuss what the reporting of child rights should look like. The main body of the report constitutes a set of guidelines, based on the structure of the UN Guiding Principles. It also provides examples of good practice from those companies that do demonstrate good practice in this area. This includes Lego’s guidelines on marketing and also H&M’s work with UNICEF and in piloting the Children’s Rights and Business Principles.

The ACCA report deserves credit for highlighting the issue – as there is a real need for companies to disclose more than their policies on the matter. But child rights reporting does present even more of a challenge than human rights reporting. Most human rights reporting (as indeed most corporate non-financial reporting in general) is directed at opinion formers. Yet the real people to whom accountability is owed are those whose rights are at stake. When it comes to child rights reporting, this implies a need is to communicate directly to children. That is not easy, although it can be done. This is a challenge that the ACCA paper identifies, but for which it does not offer significant guidance.

Which companies should take note? It is not only those that rely on extensive supply chains in which children may be exploited. It is also those that through the credit card products they deliver, can supply the finance for child abuse to take place. And of course it is also those that sell products designed to appeal to children. The test will be whether the coming months see more reporting of child rights issues.

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What hope for corporate accountability

Here are some musings on the – rather sad – state of corporate accountability in 2015. It is a report of a conversation I had with the folk at the SustainAbility consultancy.

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The social case for value

How does an organisation find out whether it is doing its part to justify its licence to operate? See my guest blog here.