Corporate communications play a crucial role in managing reputational risk.
In recent years, companies have been saying more about what they are doing to promote more ethical and sustainable corporate practices, through mandated reporting, annual CSR reports, leadership speeches and other campaigns and statements.
At the same time, whole industries, companies and their directors and officers are facing intense public scrutiny, intrusive investigations and high value litigation, triggered by what they know, say and do (and don’t do) in this area.
Only two years ago, Baptist World Aid Australia pointed a finger at the fashion industry, stating that 91 per cent of companies still don’t know where their cotton comes from, and 75 per cent don’t know the sources of all their fabrics and inputs.
Mining companies have been the focus of litigation in Canada arising out of alleged human rights abuses connected to mining operations in Guatemala, in large part off the back of public statements made by the companies about their commitment to respecting human rights.
More recently, four NGOs complained about a European bank to the Dutch National Contact Point (established under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises) alleging that the bank had breached various guidelines relating to climate change and the environment by funding coal projects.
In requiring a company director, or equivalent, to authorise and sign a commercial organisation’s modern slavery statement, the intent behind the UK Modern Slavery Act seems clear – modern slavery is a board issue and an organisation’s leaders are expected to take responsibility for the organisation’s performance in this area.