Are global companies improving their environmental, social and governance performance? There is good reason to be optimistic, though there is much work to be done.  

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer just a marketing buzzword but has become a mainstream part of business operations in companies the world over. From so-called triple bottom line accounting through legal frameworks to stock market indices that reward responsible business conduct on social and environmental fronts, company values increasingly reflect CSR values too. But what of their global supply chains, do they hold the same high values? How can multinational companies in particular be sure that the myriad firms they source from in poorer countries do not cut corners with people’s lives or the environment? The death toll from the collapse of the brand-driven Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013 was another tragic reminder that for CSR to have real value, much more needs to be done.

In this OECD Observer roundtable, we asked a range of stakeholders, from government, business, labour and civil society, for their views:

“What actions are you taking to encourage responsible business conduct and what new steps do you think are needed to strengthen corporate social responsibility worldwide?”

Brazil is poised to become one of the world’s largest oil producers. But the elation caused by the discovery of two massive oil fields is tempered by access difficulties and high cost of extraction. Still, the discoveries have thrust Brazil centre stage in the global energy grab. 

©Government of Morocco

OECD Observer: What are the main transport challenges facing your ministry?

©George Esiri/Reuters

Nigerian oil is renowned for being easy to refine, though this also fuels a trafficking problem. Oil theft in Nigeria hit a record high in the first quarter of 2013. Nigerian authorities reported a loss of US$1.2 billion in a single month, equivalent to a 17% drop in sales. 

Click to enlarge

Africa has made tremendous progress over the last 13 years, going from “hopeless” to “aspiring”, in the words of The Economist. Certainly, Africa’s pace of growth has been impressive, averaging 5.1% of GDP per year–much faster than most OECD countries. Some have dismissed this simply as reflecting the recent boom in natural resource prices. They point to the fact that the prices of most commodities– agricultural, mineral and energy–doubled or even tripled over the same period, and warn that Africa’s growth will come to an end once resource prices taper off, as is happening now.

The Université de Sherbrooke is a part of the North American university landscape that just can’t be ignored. Since its establishment in 1954, the Université de Sherbrooke has consistently put student success at the centre of its concerns, integrated innovation in all of its actions, and become a genuine model for pioneering in terms of teaching, research, and sustainable development. 

Commodities have been a major driver of Africa’s growth story in recent years. But you may be surprised to hear that natural resources could have contributed far more than they actually did to Africa’s 5% average GDP growth over the last decade. Although Africa’s primary sector has expanded, its global share of natural capital dropped from 11.5% in 1995 to 8.5% in 2005.

©Mischa Keijser/Cultura Creative/AFP

Since 1997 the Netherlands has had a tax allowance scheme aimed at promoting investments in energy-saving technologies and sustainable energy production. This so-called Energy Investment Tax Allowance, or EIA to the Dutch, reduces up-front investment costs for firms investing in the newest energy-saving and sustainable energy technologies. The basic design of the EIA has remained the same over the past 15 years: firms investing in technologies listed in an annually updated “energy list” may deduct some of the investment costs from their taxable profits.

©Marcos D’Paula/Agência Estado

The production of oil has been growing in Brazil at a steady pace since the beginning of the 2000s, and the pace is set to intensify over the next few years. Indeed, massive oil reserves were discovered in 2007 in the Tupi area, 250km off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, and since then other offshore fields have also been found. 

On 7 April 2010, a light aircraft with an unusually wide wingspan took off from a small airfield in the Swiss canton of Vaud. During its one-and-a-half hour flight it reached an altitude of 1,200 metres and went through its paces of turns, approaches and landing. Unlike in the legend of Icarus, the sun did not melt this plane’s wings, but actually powered them. This was one of the world’s first solar-powered flights, and the OECD Observer caught up with one of the creators and pilots of the Solar Impulse HBSIA aircraft, Bertrand Piccard.

Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Editor's choice

  • Is there more to life than football?
  • Economic Outlook: GDP growth in the OECD area is projected to accelerate to a 2.2% rate in 2014 and 2.8% in 2015, according to the Economic Outlook issued 6 May. The world economy will grow at a 3.4% rate in 2014 and 3.9% in 2015. Still, major challenges remain. Watch the live press conference by clicking the video.
  • OECD Yearbook 2014
    This year's OECD Yearbook focuses on major topics such as inclusive growth, jobs and trust.
    Online Edition is now available!
  • "There is no shortcut to equipping people with the right skills and to providing them with opportunities to use their skills effectively."

    - Andreas Schleicher, Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General, OECD Yearbook 2014

  • Data Lab Image
  • Interactive charts showing aid (ODA) provided by DAC members; by recipient countries and by sector. Click to compare your country.
  • OECD Insights Blog
    OECD Insights Blog by Brian Keeley:
    Results are out for the OECD’s PISA student assessments on “creative problem solving”.
  • Better Life Index
    How do you measure a Better Life?
    The OECD has launched a new interactive infographic where visitors can explore the priorities of people worldwide. Be a part of it. Create and share your Better Life Index.

Most Popular Articles

Subscribe Now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive print editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2014