However, the vote was passed with the narrowest of margins, with 253 in favour, 248 against with 51 absentions. Richard Howitt MEP, the European Parliament’s spokesperson on corporate social responsibility, said that it was only a matter of time – possibly less than two years – before what has been described as triple bottom line reporting becomes mandatory.

On his campaign website, he said that ensuring businesses act in a responsible way had become a personal goal. “The way multinationals operate right across the world, but particularly in developing countries can have a devastating effect on our environment and on local communities.”