04 July 2002 | Robin Parker
A third of European companies have measured how ethically they operate, according to the latest research.
About three-quarters of the 201 chairmen and chief executives polled by Business in the Community said vetting suppliers on ethical grounds or engaging in environmental schemes or community projects helped to increase profits.
The pan-industry organisation found that making sure customers and staff were involved in such policies was the most important factor.
More than 75 per cent of respondents said they needed to integrate such practices to be fully competitive.
But only 43 per cent of UK chief executives, and just one in 10 in the nine other European countries surveyed, said every department in a company had a responsibility for ethical and environmental strategies.
David Varney, chairman of Business in the Community, said social responsibility needed to be thought of as a strategic business decision akin to a product launch or the formation of a company.
"Corporate responsibility initiatives need to be justified both in business terms and in terms of positive outcomes for society and the environment," he said.
The findings were presented at a business breakfast at which Luc Vandevelde, chairman and chief executive of Marks & Spencer, announced that the retailer will publish its first full corporate social responsibility (CSR) report next year.
"CSR is increasingly becoming integrated into everything we do, and it follows that it must become part of everybody's job," he said.
Business in the Community is to recognise businesses in 11 categories of social responsibility at its annual awards next week.
The 45 finalists are competing for a wide range of awards, including schemes to help the environment and invest in the local community.