“An increasing number of companies view corporate responsibility as integral to their systems of governance. This is part of the requirements for doing business in today’s global economy,” ICC said.

Companies approached corporate responsibility as a comprehensive set of values and principles that are integrated in business operations through management policies and practices and decision-making processes, an introduction said.

The world business organization said that while all businesses have an implicit set of inherent values, introducing specific voluntary principles offered broad advantages. Such principles could benefit relations with customers, suppliers and the public, increase morale among company personnel, raise productivity and attract a new range of investors.

“ICC is convinced that it is in a company’s interest to make corporate responsibility a priority in today’s competitive world of instant communication in which stakeholders have access to a wealth of information and enjoy an abundance of choice.”

The nine steps listed top management commitment as a basic requirement. Other steps included defining business principles and introducing internal monitoring and implementation procedures. Companies were advised to set pragmatic and realistic objectives and to use language that everyone can understand.

Executives from ICC member companies serving on ICC’s Commission on Business in Society drew up the recommendations, entitled “Business in society: making a positive and responsible contribution”.

In the absence of a commonly accepted definition of the concept of corporate responsibility, the commission offered the following definition: “the voluntary commitment by business to manage its activities in a responsible way.”

ICC Secretary General Maria Livanos Cattaui said: “There is a lot of confusion in people’s minds about what should be expected of companies – and what companies themselves should aim for -and this paper provides some clarity. It contains practical down-to-earth guidance for managers, especially of small and medium-sized companies.”

The paper expresses ICC’s support for voluntary corporate responsibility initiatives and says that the role of governments is to provide the basic national and international framework of laws and regulations for business operations.