Executive Summary: Working Group on Private Sector
Antoine Mach (Covalence) & Sébastien Ziegler (Mandat
Karine Dube & Cristina Cariello (Mandat International)
The Working Group focused on the role of the private sector in economic,
social, cultural and environmental issues. It confronted good critics and good
practices, generally avoiding both systematic denigration and easy public
relations. Some participants expressed strong opposition towards closer
relationships with the private sector, citing cases of irresponsibility and
lack of transparency. Others insisted on the importance of monitoring the
activities of multinational enterprises, and of the private sector in general,
in line with influencing governmental regulation, while showing interest for
the practical outcome of partnerships.
The Working Group on the Private Sector brought together panellists and
delegates from civil society organizations, United Nations agencies, trade
unions, academia, banks, consultants and multinational companies.
Representatives from the private sector presented activities related to
“Corporate Social Responsibility”, such as creating partnerships
with NGOs, local communities or UN agencies, in the fields of health,
nutrition, education or economic development. Representatives from civil
society organizations expressed diverse opinions in regards to such
initiatives: on the one hand, there was a strong interest in the practical
value of partnerships, and on the other hand, civil society actors identified
important concerns and sources of fear of close cooperation with the private
sector (e.g. green washing, double standards, lobbying, cooptation). Speakers
and delegates have also mentioned situations of corporate social
In summary, the Working Group on the Private Sector demonstrated a real
interest in both targeted public pressure campaigns, such as Clean Clothes
Campaigns, and in sound partnership initiatives with private companies, such as
the Global Suppliers Programmes presented by Lorraine Ruffing (UNCTAD).
There seemed to be a consensus among civil society participants about the
fact that private companies can have a good impact and a bad impact. The
question is then when is it good, when is it bad, and what should we do? It has
been stressed that civil society organizations should play a stronger role in
the process of assessing corporate social responsibility, notably for ethical
consumerism, shareholders activism, Socially Responsible Investing, selective
public purchase policies and other incentive mechanisms.
Conclusions and recommendations
For the purpose of clarity, the Working Group made a distinction between
the Public Sector, Civil Society (taken as non-profit) and the Private Sector
Here are some of the most important themes that have been addressed in the
sessions of the Working Group on the Private Sector, and which could serve as a
basis for recommendations:
- Civil society organizations should play an active role in monitoring the
operations of private companies.
- Information regarding private companies should be more widely accessible to
civil society organizations.
- Civil society organizations should influence the definition of criteria and
the assessment of corporate behaviours.
- Decentralization of the assessment process of corporations should be
ensured. Civil society organizations and national bodies have a critical role
to play in this matter.
- Direct relations between civil society organizations and the private sector
should not be detrimental to the regulatory role of governments and the public
- Civil society organizations should increase their influence over the public
and private companies by maximizing communication from all sides such as the
media, education, academia, campaign heroes, strategic alliances and
- Civil society organizations should require that the private sector respects
cultural diversity in its approach to development.
- Civil society organizations should pressure northern and southern
governments to reinforce their social and environmental criteria in the fields
of foreign direct investments, public purchase policies, and other economic
Individual sessions in this working group
- Private sector and development
- Private sector
and the environment
- Private sector
and health: access to medicines
- Private sector and labour standards
- Ethical investments
- Private sector - civil society:
where is the border? What are the common interests and divergences?
What are the main problems?
- Private sector and human rights
- Wrap-up Session
- Michel Celi Vegas, Centre d'échanges et coopération pour
l'Amérique latine; Lorraine Ruffing, UNCTAD; Martin Epp, Helvetas, Bruno
Gurtner, Swiss Coalition of Development Organizations; Ram Etwareea, Le
- Jean-Paul Jeanreynaud, WWF International; Claire Cocault, United Nations
Environment Program; Pierre Hauselman PI Environmental Consulting; Jeff
McNeely, International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
- Winnie Mpanju-Shumbusho, World Health Organization; Penny Grewal, Novartis;
Roy Widdus, Initiative on Public-Private Partnerships for Health; Clive Ondari,
World Health Organization; Bernard Pecoul, Médecins Sans
- Jorge-Daniel Taillant, Centro de Derechos Humanos Y Medio Ambiente; Salil
Tripathi, Amnesty International; Gilles Carbonnier, International Committee of
the Red Cross and Red Crescent; Peter Damary, Foodfirst International
Information and Action Network; Antoine Mach, Covalence.
- Dominic Peccoud, International Labour Organization; Lara Cataldi,
Déclaration de Berne; Yvonne O'Callaghan, International Confederation of
Free Trade Unions; Jem Bendell, United Nations Research Institute for Social
- Alfredo Sfeir-Younis, World Bank; Piet Sprengers, Dutch Association of
Investors for Sustainable Development, representing the Global Reporting
Initiative; Edouard Dommen, ACTARES Swiss Shareholders for a Sustainable
Economy; Patrick Odier, Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch Bank;
- Tony Hill, UN Non governmental Liaison Service, Bettina Ferdman, Philias,
Peter Utting, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.
- Nada Dugas, Procter and Gamble; Niels Christiansen, Nestlé; Derek
Yach, World Health Organization; Patti Rundall, IBFAN International Baby Food
Action Network; Marie Ganier-Raymond, FIAN Foodfirst International Information
and Action Network; Dr. Daniel Warner, Graduate Institute of International
- Philippe Lévy, Transparency Switzerland; Robert Jourdain and Heinrich
Bieler, Société Général de Surveillance; prof.
Michelle Bergadaà, University of Geneva.