“Companies don’t play a large role in the CRT,” says Stephen Young, U.S. Director of the Caux Round Table Secretariat. “We are a network of individuals, of senior business leaders.” Using dialogue as a springboard to action, this network of senior managers assemble annually in Caux, Switzerland to develop ideas and helpful solutions.
The CRT is striving to share their perspectives with the wider international business community, governments and other institutions; to bring a point of view based on factual accuracy, non-ideological perspective and objectivity.
Dr. Frederik Phillips, former chairman of Philips Electronics, and Olivier Giscard d’Estaing, Vice-Chairman of INSEAD, initiated the first meeting fifteen years ago. Believing that there are common values shared across cultures, the CRT created a candid dialogue between business peers in an effort to defuse trade tensions and be a catalyst for principled business leadership.
The Round Table is increasingly focusing its attention on issues of global corporate responsibility in the context of the issues effecting the world, such as imbalances of trade and economic disparities between developed and developing nations as well as the rich and the poor.
CRT Position Papers have been drawn to address their current priorities of 1) good corporate governance, 2) fiscal, environmental and ethical transparency, and 3) responsible foreign investment and trade. These propositions are meant to increase standards of living and employment rates throughout the world.
In 1994, the CRT published its Principles for Business to express a worldwide standard for ethical and responsible corporate behavior. Since that time, those companies who have privately adopted this set of ideals are engaging in dialogue to create a foundation for action.
“The CRT Principles for Business are not primarily moral rules for individual merchants and small shop-owners.” said Young. “They are principles for corporations and those who own and manage corporations to follow.”
The Principles suggest law and market forces are necessary but not sufficient guides for conduct. Doing business should be based on kyosei, a Japanese concept of “living and working together for the common good, enabling cooperation and mutual prosperity to coexist with healthy and fair competition,” and human dignity, which refers to the value of each person as an end, not simply as a means to fulfilling another’s purpose.
The Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) also encourage a voluntary commitment of continually improving corporate standards with its set of principles, a 10-point code of conduct for companies. Including a similar code of environmental stewardship, the Caux principles place an additional stake in improving economic and social conditions as well.
Urged by Ryuzaburo Kaku, Chairman of Canon Inc., the CRT is focusing on global corporate responsibility to reduce social and economic instability. It is through understanding, cooperation and conscientious leadership, the key components of the Principles for Business, the Caux Round Table is sharing its vision for a standard of acceptable business behavior throughout the world.