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Edited by Stephen Tully
20 Corporate responsibility: the UNEP experience Monique Barbut and Cornis van der Lugt Introduction Since its creation in the 1970s, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has been working with the private sector in various ways to advance greater environmental awareness and responsibility. In the early days more energy was invested in putting out fires, focusing on end-of-pipe solutions and policy approaches based on dilution and treatment downstream. Over the years we have been learning with business and industry, going upstream with a focus on cleaner production and – in more recent years – a focus on sustainable consumption and life-cycle approaches. Following more holistic approaches also meant increasingly dealing with social challenges, based on the integration that sustainable development requires. This also implied taking on the growing debate on what some preferred to call ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR). The CSR debate was driven by new questions being asked about the societal role of big companies in the aftermath of the Cold War and unease about raising inequalities accompanying the process of globalisation. This chapter will focus on corporate environmental responsibility and the related activities of UNEP. A few words about legalistic approaches and the legal profession are also called for. In the CSR debate some critics have questioned the role of the legal profession and company lawyers for forcing company decision-makers to focus more on ‘liability’ than ‘responsibility’, causing many companies to follow a minimalist approach that leaves little room for proactive leadership. At UNEP’s 20th Annual Consultative Meeting with Industry...
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