Our expectation of multinational corporations and local suppliers is simple: Compliance with national and international law. Codes of conduct make little sense if not seen as simplified, accessible expressions of pertinent national and international law. We express this as a
CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY = PERTINENT NATIONAL LAW +
PERTINENT INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS + CODE OF CONDUCT
The highest applicable standard must always prevail.
We recognize that we can build a culture of compliance in Guatemala or similar countries overnight. We need to build spaces where consumers, workers and business owners can talk to each other. This is a complex, volatile process that each of our countries has to work through on its own. We also recognize that this is not the responsibility of multinationals or even local business. But we believe that it is not in the interests of either local suppliers or multinationals to take advantage of the current weaknesses of workers, civil society and government in order to maximize short-term profit. Rather, corporations can seek out the services of organizations like COVERCO while resisting the urge to try to use us as substitutes for unions.
By subjecting themselves to the rule of law, corporations help to create an atmosphere where local civil society and government can develop or strengthen fragile social institutions. In the medium term this will be good for people in both the South and the North. And, as more people prosper in more stable, responsive, accountable and participative societies, business will boom.