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The CERES principles

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The Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) is a non-profit organization based in the US which comprises investors and environmental, religious and public interest groups. The coalition's purpose is to promote investment policies that are environmentally, socially and financially sound.

There are currently more than 70 members, including large financial organizations such as Harrington Investments and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club.

The ten so-called CERES principles offer guidance and standards against which companies can measure their performance on environmental and social issues. Currently around 60 companies have signed up to the principles.

The ten principles commit companies to protecting the earth, using energy and resources wisely and sustainably, minimizing waste, and selling safe products and services. The signatories back up their commitment by pledging to reduce risk, disclose hazards, and compensate for damages. They also agree to provide high-level management support for environmental activities, and to gather and disseminate information about their environmental performance, both internally and externally.

Although stringent, the principles have been adopted by companies in industries ranging from finance to footwear. In February 1993, the Philadelphia-based oil producer Sun Company became the first Fortune 500 company to sign up to the CERES principles. Other Fortune 500 companies have since signed on, including General Motors, Arizona Public Service, Polaroid, Body Shop International, and Bank of America. Many small firms have also agreed to observe the principles.

CERES 'environmental members' include Green Seal, the Sierra Club, Valdez Society of Japan, Earth Island Institute, the International Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture and the Worldwide Fund for Nature. 'Social investment members' include the United States Trust Company of Boston, Harrington Investments, Parnassus Fund, Social Responsibility Investment Group, Calvert Social Investment Fund and Foundation, and the Presbyterian Church.

'At-large members' are organizations and individuals whose interests are not represented by the other members of the Coalition. They include the Industrial Union Department, the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, and the Washington Office on Environmental Justice.

The CERES pledge

The pledge that CERES signatories make is as follows:

'By adopting these principles, we publicly affirm our belief that corporations and their shareholders have a direct responsibility for the environment. We believe that corporations must conduct their business as responsible stewards of the environment and seek profits only in a manner that leaves the Earth healthy and safe. We believe that corporations must not compromise the ability of future generations to sustain their needs.

'We recognize this to be a long-term commitment to update our practices continually in light of advances in technology and new understandings in health and environmental science. We intend to make consistent, measurable progress in implementing these Principles and to apply them wherever we operate throughout the world.

1. Protection of the biosphere

'We will minimize and strive to eliminate the release of any pollutant that may cause environmental damage to air, water, or earth or its inhabitants. We will safeguard habitats in rivers, lakes, wetlands, coastal zones and oceans and will minimize contributing to the greenhouse effect, depletion of the ozone layer, acid rain or smog.

2. Sustainable use of natural resources

'We will make sustainable use of renewable natural resources, such as water, soils and forest. We will conserve non-renewable natural resources through efficient use and careful planning. We will protect wildlife habitats, open spaces and wilderness, while preserving biodiversity.

3. Reduction and disposal of waste

'We will minimize the creation of waste, especially hazardous waste, and wherever possible recycle materials. We will dispose of all wastes through safe and responsible methods.

4. Wise use of energy

'We will make every effort to use environmentally safe and sustainable energy sources to meet our needs. We will invest in improved energy efficiency and conservation in our operations. We will maximize the energy efficiency of products we produce and sell.

5. Risk reduction

'We will minimize the environmental health and safety risks to our employees and the communities in which we operate by employing safe technologies and operating procedures and by being constantly prepared for emergencies.

6. Marketing safe products and services

'We will sell products or services that minimize adverse environmental impacts and that are safe as consumers commonly use them. We will inform consumers of the environmental impacts of our products or services.

7. Damage compensation

'We will take responsibility for any harm we cause to the environment by making every effort to fully restore the environment and to compensate those persons who are adversely affected.

8. Disclosure

'We will disclose to our employees and to the public incidents relating to our operations that cause environmental harm or pose health or safety hazards. We will disclose potential environmental, health or safety hazards posed by our operations, and we will not take any action against employees who report any conditions that create a danger to the environment or pose health or safety hazards.

9. Environmental directors and managers

'We will continue to improve management resources to implement the CERES principles. This includes monitoring and reporting our implementation efforts, and sustaining a process to ensure that the board of directors and chief executive officer are kept informed of and are fully responsible for all environmental matters. We will establish a committee of the board of directors with responsibility for environmental affairs. At least one member of the board of directors will be a person qualified to represent environmental interests to come before the company.

10. Assessment and audit

'We will conduct and make public an annual self-evaluation of our progress in implementing these principles and in complying with applicable laws and regulations throughout our worldwide operations. We will work towards the timely creation of independent environmental audit procedures which we will complete annually and make available to the public.'

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