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Transparency is essential for holding business accountable; Oxfam works with business leaders and allies to strengthen disclosure rules and convince companies to measure and report how their activities affect the poor.
Transparency and reporting are vital to robust stakeholder engagement, responsible and accountable business practices, and innovation to benefit poor people, yet the impact of business on poverty goes largely unmeasured and unreported. Although environmentalists have developed sophisticated tools to disclose environmental impacts, social impacts—impacts on communities, small businesses, producers, and consumers—suffer from a lack of tools and attention. This situation has recently started to change. There are now a number of incipient initiatives aimed at bringing social impacts to the fore—and “sustainability reports” by major companies have recognized the need to measure these impacts all the way down the corporate supply chain.
Oxfam is working with investor coalitions and private sector leaders to pressure companies into undertaking more robust social reporting and public engagement. Oxfam is also working with these and other allies to push for stronger rules and laws around reporting requirements for companies listed on US stock exchanges. Additionally, Oxfam engages with companies and communities to develop new tools to measure impacts, including a “poverty footprint” methodology and a community-led human rights assessment tool, as a way to raise awareness and press for greater transparency.
Transparency case study: poverty footprints
Oxfam’s Poverty Footprint Methodology is designed to provide a robust understanding of a company’s poverty impacts up and down its value chain, taking account of its key activities, relationships, and products. Through poverty footprints with major corporations, Oxfam aims to develop a platform for stakeholders to engage companies on major social and economic issues and to bring into the mainstream the ideas that companies need to take responsibility for, report on, and account for these impacts. For companies, these collaborations can provide critical insights and ways to adjust their business practices to mitigate negative impacts and amplify positive impacts.
Following on an initial partnership with Unilever in Indonesia (led by Oxfam Great Britain), Oxfam America worked with Coca-Cola Co. and SABMiller to publish a report on their value chains in Zambia and El Salvador. Alongside this report, Oxfam is engaging with a wide range of investors, business groups, and ratings agencies to promote more robust transparency around poverty impacts.