ICC's Business Charter for Sustainable Development

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is a non-governmental organization serving world business. Its membership extends to more than 130 countries and includes thousands of business organizations and enterprises with international interests.

ICC has more than 80 years of experience as an international body representing the interests of businesses in all sectors, all over the world. It works to promote world trade and investment based on free and fair competition, and to harmonize trade practices and formulate guidelines and terminology for importers and exporters.

In response to the World Commission on Environment and Development report, ICC developed a 'Business Charter for Sustainable Development' which sets out 16 principles for environmental management.

The Charter covers environmentally relevant aspects of health, safety and product stewardship. Its objective is 'that the widest range of enterprises commit themselves to improving their environmental performance in accordance with the principles, to having in place management practices to effect such improvement, to measuring their progress, and to reporting this progress as appropriate, internally and externally'

The 16 principles set out in the charter are as follows:

1. Corporate priority

To recognise environmental management as among the highest corporate priorities and as a key determinant to sustainable development; to establish policies, programmes and practices for conducting operations in an environmentally sound manner.

2. Integrated management

To integrate these policies, programmes and practices fully into each business as an essential element of management in all its functions.

3. Process of improvement

To continue to improve corporate policies, programmes and environmental performance, taking into account technical developments, scientific understanding, consumer needs and community expectations, with legal regulations as a starting point, and to apply the same environmental criteria internationally.

4. Employee education

To educate, train and motivate employees to conduct their activities in an environmentally responsible manner.

5. Prior assessment

To assess environmental impacts before starting a new activity or project and before decommissioning a facility or leaving a site.

6. Products and services

To develop and provide products or services that have no undue environmental impact and are safe in their intended use, that are efficient in their consumption of energy and natural resources, and that can be recycled, reused, or disposed of safely.

7. Customer advice

To advise and, where relevant, educate customers, distributors and the public in the safe use, transportation, storage and disposal of products provided, and to apply similar considerations to the provision of services.

8. Facilities and operations

To develop, design and operate facilities and conduct activities taking into consideration the efficient use of energy and materials, the sustainable use of renewable resources, the minimization of adverse environmental impacts of waste generation, and the safe and responsible disposal of residual wastes.

9. Research

To conduct or support research on the environmental impacts of raw materials, products, processes, emissions and wastes associated with the enterprise and on the means of minimizing such adverse impacts.

10. Precautionary approach

To modify the manufacture, marketing or use of products or services or the conduct of activities, consistent with scientific and technical understanding, to prevent serious or irreversible environmental degradation.

11. Contractors and suppliers

To promote the adoption of these principles by contractors acting on behalf of the enterprise, encouraging and, where appropriate, requiring improvements in their practices to make them consistent with those of the enterprise; and to encourage the wider adoption of these principles by suppliers.

12. Emergency preparedness

To develop and maintain, where significant hazards exist, emergency preparedness plans in conjunction with emergency services, relevant authorities and the local community, recognizing potential transboundary impacts

13. Transfer of technology

To contribute to the transfer of environmentally sound technology and management methods throughout the industrial and public sectors.

14. Contributing to the common effort

To contribute to the development of public policy and to business, governmental and intergovernmental programmes and educational initiatives that will enhance environmental awareness and protection.

15. Openness to concerns

To foster openness and dialogue with employees and the public, anticipating and responding to their concerns about the potential hazards and impact of operations, products, wastes or services, including those of transboundary or global significance.

16. Compliance and reporting

To measure environmental performance; to conduct regular environmental audits and assessment of compliance with company requirements, legal requirements and these principles; and periodically to provide appropriate information to the board of directors, shareholders, employees, the authorities and the public.

To date, more than 2,300 companies have signed up to it, and the list includes corporations such as Norsk Hydro, Deloitte & Touche, Akzo Nobel, and Xerox. In addition, several industry associations use it as the basis for their sustainability programmes.

Endorsement of the ICC Charter is voluntary. By signing it, companies commit themselves to respecting its 16 principles for environmental management. The ICC is currently assessing how companies that have endorsed the Charter are applying the principles, and what their experiences were with implementation.

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Contact: Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org