Business-led coalitions played important roles in South Africa’s and Indonesia’s tdemocratic ransitions as a valuable part of the “architecture” promoting responsible business practices, writes David Grayson.
It has not just political leaders and business people who have been rushing to Burma. Civil society leaders too have been busy. Among these, is the excellent Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), which has embarked on a multi-year project to help ensure that existing and new investments in Burma are consistent with international human rights standards and best practices.
IHRB have appointed a project manager in Yangon (Rangoon) and established a resource centre in Burma to provide information on corporate legal obligations and operational responsibilities.
A valuable briefing paper, Responsible Investment in Burma: The Human Rights dimension, provides a potted recent history of the country; the political, economic and social challenges Burma now faces; and the major issues that any inward investors will face such as corruption, unclear land rights, and finding local business partners not contaminated by association with the dictatorship and/or linked to human rights abuses.
The IHRB guide should help investors to ensure that at every step, they are monitoring their progress against international human rights frameworks (also known as the Ruggie Framework).
It may well be that at an appropriate moment, a coalition of responsible businesses operating in Burma could play an important role in supporting the democratic transition, building the enabling environment for a functioning market economy, and advancing sustainable development.
A Burma corporate responsibility forum, supported by one or more of the international corporate responsibility coalitions, could help both indigenous Burma businesses and international companies moving into/returning to Burma. Such a forum might help to promote relevant international standards and sectoral good practice, as well as providing a safe space where issues specific to Burma can be explored and good practice tested.
This extract is taken from a longer post in The Guardian’s Sustainable Business Blog
David Grayson is professor of Corporate Responsibility and director of the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility at the Cranfield School of Management.