Corporate Responsibility is an issue that is gaining in breadth and intensity as governments, non-governmental organizations and corporations alike are increasingly challenged to address human rights issues, issues of environmental responsibility and the impact of globalization on these issues. Much can be learned about how this issue is addressed on the Web, yet little is known about the distribution of voices in the debate. This analysis aims to isolate central actors in the debate, compare their positions on the matter, and gain a sense of the priorities of the online debate.
The Corporate Responsibility Network
As a starting point for the analysis, a query was performed on Google.com using the search terms "Corporate Responsibility" + "Civil Society". Of the top 50 Urls identified using this method 10 Urls were selected:
From this distribution it is clear that the majority of actors in the Corporate Responsibility Issue (as it is represented in the online environment) are .Orgs, and that the majority of interlinking between these Urls (dialogue) is between the .Orgs themselves, not between .Orgs & .Coms (etc).
The 88 Urls located in the Actor Network Pool (identified above) were imported into the Réseau-Lu Software package for further analysis. The URL Network Map, below, shows a proximity distribution of the Urls in the Actor Network Pool, and identifies which Urls provide both links in and links out and which Urls provide only one or the other.
From this redistribution five Urls were selected for further analysis. They were selected on the basis of their centrality to the debate, and upon the availability of substantial amounts of texts describing their respective positions. The analysis is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather, aims to provide a sense of the online debate by comparing a selection of relevant actors. The five actors selected for the keyword analysis are listed below with a brief description of each organization, including a description of their respective priorities regarding the issue of corporate responsibility.
Ethical Trading Initiative
The Ethical Trading Initiative is an alliance of companies, NGOs and trade union organisations committed to working together to change business behaviour by identifying and promoting good practice in the implementation of codes of labour practice. It is a membership organisation currently comprising 33 companies, four umbrella bodies from the trade union movement, and 19 NGOs. Corporate members agree to promote and observe international labour standards in their supply chains, and all members agree to collaborate via adherence to core standards, and experimentation in how to implement them.
Global Dimensions positions themselves in the Corporate Responsibility debate by challenging corporations to develop an understanding of the underlying conceptual issues, examples of best practice and relevant experience. The field of human rights, especially, has seen new developments and a new activism resulting from the emergence of a global civil society. Global dimensions aims to address central issues by answering: Should responsibility for the protection of human rights fall on companies or be left to governments?, Is there a conflict between profit and human rights?, How should companies be regulated globally?, What internal procedures can companies put in place to monitor human rights performance?, How valuable are existing initiatives like the UN Global Compact that encourage voluntary cooperation between companies, non-governmental organisations and governments or intergovernmental organisations in creating processes for protecting human-rights?, and 'How can corporations, governments and non-governmental organisations be made accountable to a global society in relation to the protection of human rights?
The World Bank
The Operations Evaluation Department (OED) is an independent unit within the World Bank; it reports directly to the Bank's Board of Executive Directors. OED assesses what works, and what does not; how a borrower plans to run and maintain a project; and the lasting contribution of the Bank to a country's overall development. The goals of evaluation are to leam from experience, to provide an objective basis for assessing the results of the Bank's work, and to provide accountability in the achievement of its objectives. It also improves Bank work by identifying and disseminating the lessons leamed from experience and by framing recommendations drawn from evaluation findings. This conceptual account details the approach to privatization and enterprise reform of three major countries in transition: Poland, Russia, and the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Other issues considered include Public enterprise reform and privatization prior to the Bank's large-scale involvement in transition.
United Nations Global Compact
In January 1999 a series of preparatory meetings brought together a UN team with representatives of business as well as international labor and civil society organizations. Led by the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, and including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, International Labor Organization, United Nations Environment Program and, more recently, the United Nations Development Program and the UN Fund for International Partnership. The Compact's operational phase was launched in July 2000, bringing together senior executives from some 50 major corporations and the leaders of labor, human rights, environmental and development organizations. The Global Compact is not a regulatory instrument or code of conduct, but a value-based platform designed to promote institutional learning it utilizes the power of transparency and dialogue to identify and disseminate good practices based on universal principles.
United Nations Research Institute for Social Development
The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) is an autonomous agency engaging in multi-disciplinary research on the social dimensions of contemporary problems affecting development. Its work is guided by the conviction that, for effective development policies to be formulated, an understanding of the social and political context is crucial. The Institute attempts to provide governments, development agencies, grassroots organizations and scholars with a better understanding of how development policies and processes of economic, social and environmental change affect different social groups. Working through an extensive network of national research centres, UNRISD aims to promote original research and strengthen research capacity in developing countries
Textual Analysis Results
Three distinct analyses were then performed on the textual content of the five actors identified above. The first analysis identified the central keywords used by and shared between each respective Url, the second provided a lexical analysis of the keywords used in all texts under analysis in order to identify the central sub issues in the debate, and finally, the third analysis identified the distribution of central themes in the Corporate Responsibility issue for each respective actor.
The Keyword by URL Map shown below identifies the central keywords used by each respective actor selected for this analysis. The map also reveals the words that are shared between the actors.
From this map, one can immediately discern that many terms used in the debate are shared between the majority of actors, including for example: control, discussion, government, influence, instrument, legislate, mechanism, process, system, etceteras. More interesting perhaps are words which are used by only one actor in the debate. Only the Worldbank.org website, for example, uses: bank, and privatize. Only Gloaldimensions.net uses terms like: enforce, legal, and law. Other examples include the ETI.org which uses terms like: monitor, stakeholder, ethics and trade in its descriptions of the Corporate Responsibility issue.
Next, a lexical analysis of the total keyword list generated from all the texts in the analysis was performed to identify sub issues central to the debate. The analysis gauges the proximity of keywords to each other, as shown below in Map 4: Lexical Network Map.
The proximity of keywords to each other in this map illustrates that a handful of key sub-issues are central to the debate. Moreover, their general proximity to each other clearly identifies words which are oft grouped. These include such words as: human, and right, social and development, and standard and practice. Other words need not be grouped to learn their shared significance to the debate; examples include: corporation, global, government, labour, and sustainable, to name but a few examples.
The final analysis performed on the textual content of the Urls selected for the analysis analyzed the distribution of central themes in the Corporate Responsibility debate. The results are represented to illustrate their relevance to each respective Url. Map 5: Semantic Network Map by URL, below shows this distribution of central themes.
Several interesting features are immediately identifiable. The UNRISD.org website clearly engages the issue of Corporate Responsibility in terms of activity. That is to say, that themes such as action and process suggest that the actor engages the issue in terms of what can (and should) be done. By contrast, UNGlobalcompact.org and Globaldimensions.net use thematic terminology that identifies issues but does not prescribe solutions. This is evidenced by their proximity to the thematic categories: condition, position, and description. It is interesting that corporate and arena are themes shared by the majority of actors.
Several preliminary conclusions can be made based on these analyses. By and large, the Corporate Responsibility issue (as it is represented by these five central actors in the debate) appears to cover a diverse range of sub-issues including environmental concerns, human and worker rights, labour issues, ethics, as well as general standards and codes of corporate practice. In a nutshell it can be argued that the issue of Corporate Responsibility is multifarious issue that includes a number of highly relevant sub-issues, or even sub-debates, which have their own internal dynamics. Human rights and labour laws, environmental sustainability, as well as the establishment of standard codes of practice appear to be absolutely central to the overall issue of Corporate Responsibility.