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Beyond CSR: Should corporations behave as global citizens?

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Beyond CSR: Should corporations behave as global citizens?

Global corporate citizenship advocates for the private sector to play a comprehensive role in tackling the world's biggest challenges.

The term global corporate citizenship (GCC) emerged in the 1990s. It refers to the notion that corporations should look beyond just their own communities and also focus on the global community. They don’t just engage with their stakeholders; they are themselves stakeholders. They should work alongside NGOs and governments to provide solutions on topics such as climate change, public health care, energy conservation, poverty and conflict. These issues affect businesses so working to address them is not just ethical – it also affects profits.

Since the start of the century, the number of companies using global corporate citizenship to guide their social responsibility activities has ballooned. The World Economic Forum has created a “Corporate Global Citizenship Framework”. It identifies four main pillars:

  • Corporate governance practices: Following business practices which advance integrity and make ethical use of resources
  • Corporate philanthropy: Committed and consistent giving to social organisations
  • Social responsibility: Recognising and acting in the best interest of diverse stakeholders
  • Social entrepreneurship: Business innovation which profitably addresses social needs

Economic contributions (the creation of benefits such as employment opportunities and GDP) are cross-cutting. They are the foundations which support the four pillars. The model encourages corporations to have a positive impact in the treatment of employees, production processes, charitable donations and innovation.

Is global corporate citizenship a good thing?

Some may be skeptical about corporations’ intentions or uncomfortable with the notion that interests prioritising profit should play a more prominent role. This is exacerbated by the reality that the state’s role has diminished thanks to globalisation and neoliberal economics. The private sector is therefore more likely to be involved in the health of employees, the education of their children and pension provision, for example.

However, the more expansive view of corporate responsibility is also partly due to civil society pressure in the 1990s.  This led to real progress. The notion that corporations should be “good citizens” is now the norm, increasing pressure on those who are not. Many NGOs who initially took a confrontational approach towards corporations now prefer to work with rather than against them. 

How does this affect the sport and development sector?

Many corporations have partnered with sport NGOs, clubs and federations in the last ten years. The growth of corporate global citizenship hasn't just led to funding opportunities, but also knowledge exchange and access to networks. Social innovation has resulted in products such as the One World Futbol and improved equipment for adapted physical activity.

As the international community works towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), global corporate citizenship will become even more important. Goal 17 focuses on partnerships and the United Nations has emphasised the private sector's role. 

The sport and development community will benefit. More funding will be available and the sector has the chance to align its interests with those of businesses in the context of the SDGs. As former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: Now is the time to mobilise the global business community as never before”.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017 - 12:49

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