Virginia Chapter leader Jesse Rabinowitz summarizes the process by which he and several colleagues convinced their state representatives to draft "HJ 268," a Study Resolution on Corporate Citizenship, which is now fighting a valiant fight in the Virginia General Assembly. How did they achieve this? Here's how Jesse describes it:

"I contacted a few progressive legislators with the general idea, sent them the original SRI (Social Responsibility Initiative) as suggested in Tikkun and the Thad Williamson article on EIRs (Ethical Impact Reports--reprinted in our second issue of Meaning Matters online). One legislator was very interested and asked me to set up a meeting with our group (Richmond Community for Ethics and Meaning) and with business people in Richmond who were interested in socially responsible business practices. at the meeting, we discussed what these businesses had done, as well as the concepts in the SRI and EIR papers. From there, we crafted the study resolution. we used the term corporate citizenship, instead of accountability or responsibility, in order to avoid attracting immediate rejection. We've also been trying to get business professors from neighboring universities to agree to be part of the study."

"The bill is currently in a study subcommittee of our state House Rules committee, where, apparently, our legislative patron received a horrible response, so we're trying to get people to lobby the delegates in the subcommittee. I expect it will be an uphill struggle as our general assembly just went Republican majority and they're not exactly a progressive bunch in Virginia."

The text of the study resolution is below:

HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 268
Offered January 24, 2000
Establishing a joint subcommittee to study corporate citizenship within the Commonwealth.
Patrons-- Darner and Baskerville
Referred to Committee on Rules

WHEREAS, citizens of the Commonwealth, as customers, consumers, employees, stockholders, suppliers, and communities, all contribute significantly to corporate success or are affected significantly by corporate actions; and

WHEREAS, while the earliest of corporate charters were for public purposes but over time those purposes changed to serve primarily stockholders or owners; and

WHEREAS, many corporations, on a daily basis, exercise their corporate responsibilities in ways beneficial to the communities in which they are located, to groups and individuals with specific needs, and to the social and environmental fabric of the Commonwealth; and

WHEREAS, reporting and accounting for corporate activities that affected environmental and social matters commenced in the 1970s; and,

WHEREAS, there has been a reemergence of attention to corporate citizenship, including renewed attention to the impact of corporate practices upon the health and well-being of communities and the environment; and,

WHEREAS, there are many examples of how the practice of corporate citizenship results in prosperous corporate and business success, and the concept of corporate citizenship is being recognized as a tenet of good business practice; and

WHEREAS, corporations may, from time to time, seek contracts, tax abatements, incentives, or industrial development bonds, or engage in other activities that involve the direct payment of funds of the Commonwealth to them; and,

WHEREAS, citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia have a right to access appropriate information regarding the responsibility and performance of corporations that may benefit from public funds; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, That a joint subcommittee be established to study corporate citizenship within the Commonwealth. The study shall address corporate citizenship as it may pertain to the needs of the citizens of the Commonwealth and the conduct of certain business of the Commonwealth and of local units of government. In conducting its study, the joint subcommittee shall examine (i) the history of corporate citizenship within the nation and the Commonwealth along with the current reemergence of interest in this area; (ii) the appropriateness of providing standard guidance for the preparation and dissemination of ethical and social impact statements as part of such corporate citizenship; and (iii) the ways by which corporate citizenship can be encouraged and facilitated at the local and state levels.

The joint subcommittee shall be composed of seven members, as follows: four members of the House of Delegates, to be appointed by the Speaker of the House in accordance with the principles of Rule 16 of the Rules of the House of Delegates; and three members of the Senate, to be appointed by the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections.

The direct costs of this study shall not exceed $7,000.

The Division of Legislative Services shall provide staff support for the study. Technical assistance shall be provided by the Virginia State Corporation Commission. All agencies of the Commonwealth shall provide assistance to the joint subcommittee, upon request.

The joint subcommittee shall complete its work in time to submit its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the 2001 Session of the General Assembly as provided in the procedures of the Division of Legislative Automated Systems for the processing of legislative documents.

Implementation of this resolution is subject to subsequent approval and certification by the Joint Rules Committee. The Committee may withhold expenditures or delay the period for the conduct of the study.

For information on the Oregon Human Rights Inititative for a legislative method of controling corporate behavior, charters and business licenses, go to www.oregonrights.com.
Return to Update