Re-Casting the Frame of Corporate Social Responsibility and Responsible Investment: An Environmental and Social Perspective
University of Southern Queensland - Australian Centre for Sustainable Business and Development (ACSBD)
December 21, 2011
The normative financial assumption currently at play in both the corporate sector and 'responsible' investment is that accountability and transparency are the primary prerequisites for 'good' governance. Here, it is assumed that financial disclosure, and open and transparent accounting are sufficient indicators of probity. Should the particular entity, which seeks to gain financially from investing in the corporation in question, require further proof of responsibility, it often requires reporting against other environmental, social, or 'governance' criteria (ESG).
This paper seeks to challenge these assumptions by arguing that accountability and transparency and 'ESG' are only partial determinants of responsible corporate and financial behaviour. Since the Rio 'Earth' Summit in 1992 - followed by Rio 10 in Johannesburg in 2002, and now Rio 20 - the international community has placed considerable emphasis on sustainability as a key means of social, environmental and economic development. This global policy agenda has also played itself out within the corporate and financial spheres, with several United Nations bodies now having carriage of responsibility for encouraging the implementation of good corporate and financial practice.
A wide range of expectations is now placed on corporations seeking to promote themselves as suitable candidates for responsible investment. In turn, responsible investment as a financial industry sector is also coming under increasing scrutiny regarding its activities. Using a hierarchical framework of principles, criteria and indicators, this paper evaluates the governance quality of responsible investment. Following international political theory, it subjects the sector to a multi-stakeholder analysis of governance quality by means of an international survey conducted in 2011. The survey shows that while stakeholders rate governance quality relatively highly, there are some wide discrepancies across key indicators, and stakeholder groups. These results are similar to those previously collected in 2009, and reveal some governance trends. The results have implications for current and future governance practice in both corporations seeking recognition as suitable prospects for responsible investment, and for the responsible investment industry itself.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 19
Keywords: responsible investment, stakeholder analysis, quality of governance, principles criteria and indicators
JEL Classification: F5, Q5working papers series
Date posted: December 23, 2011
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