The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) launched its Business Charter for Sustainable Development in 1990. The Charter consisted of a short introduction and a set of 16 principles for environmental management and has been one of the most discussed ICC environmental efforts.
The ICC Project 2001 may provide ground for the ongoing dialogue related to the role and effectiveness of voluntary initiatives, particularly those to be launched in South Africa during the 2002 United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development.
ICC claims that more than 2,300 companies have formally supported the Charter. Although ICC makes the list of companies available to whoever is interested in it, very little research has been done on the Charter supporters and on their performance in implementing the Charter principles.
The ICC Project 2001 report begins with three chapters on the ICC, voluntary environmental initiatives, and the ICC Charter. It follows with an analysis of the current list of Charter supporters, one assessment on reporting practices of a random sample of 768 supporters, and another assessment of reporting practices of Brazilian Charter supporters. Environment-related reports available online were analyzed for these supporters.
The analysis shows that the list of signatories contains some duplications and errors and that more than 90% of the supporters come from only 24 countries. Of the supporters, 29% come from Malaysia alone.
Of the random sample of 768 supporters, 167 had reports available on the Internet with varying expressions of commitment to the environment, description of environmental activities and environmental indicators.
Of the 41 Brazilian supporters, 21 had reports available on the Internet. The Brazilian reports were also benchmarked to the Global Reporting Initiative sustainability reporting guidelines, what confirmed the lack of basic environmental data in all reports.
The ICC Project 2001 raises questions about the credibility of voluntary initiatives that are not enforced or monitored by their sponsoring organizations. It also calls for the inclusion of social as well as economic and environmental concerns in future sustainable development initiatives to promote strong and sincere efforts from developing countries.