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THE GSES system

Social footprint

The product-level social footprint forms a bridge between the product-level sustainability and the manufacturer’s or retailer’s organisation-level performance. The social footprint is not included in the Nature Impact Rating but certain organisation-level indicators are displayed along with the product’s score. This is because it is important for consumers to know not just a product’s performance, but also the sustainability of the organisation that produces it. The basis of the social footprint is the CSR pillar of the GSE-standard on the organisation level. Read more about the pillar here:

The following KPIs are displayed on the product level:


The CSR related exemptions held by a company can be displayed on the product scorecard.

No child labour that deviates from national laws and ILO standards (e.g. that prevents childeren from going to school).

Equal opportunities for and non-discrimination of women and minorities is supported.

Workers work in safe working conditions that meet the requirements of the applicable law and legislation. There is no forced labor.

Workers are not hindered in any way in their freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

The producer of this product provides fair wages that allow for a standard of living in which housing, food, education and healthcare are affordable.

Includes the measures taken for training opportunities, local or regional purchasing and support for local organisations.

CSR Pillar Content

Companies and governments are all part of a larger whole. No organization stands alone. There are always customers or members, suppliers and stakeholders. Within the CSR Pillar the context analysis of mapping the environment is the first step. A distinction is made between:

• internal issues
• external issues, related to the surrounding
socio-economical system
• external issues, related to the value chai

Internal issues are focused on the organization itself. It’s about concepts as corporate culture (openness/transparency, ethics etc.), business resources (real estate, resources, energy consumption, waste, recycling etc.) and employees (internal versus freelance employees, working conditions, equality between men and women, development, training, recruitment etc.).

External issues have to do with the environment of the organization. For example:

the value chain (e.g. industry agreements, covenants such as Green Deals, ICSR covenant etc.), government (e.g. laws and regulations, zoning plans etc.),
civil society organizations (NGOs e.g. regarding human rights, animal welfare, nature etc.),
market-/sector developments (e.g. from fossil to biobased, robot technology etc.),
public opinion and media (e.g. driver bonuses), and local communities (e.g. safety, employment, nuisance).

The physical environment of the organization also plays a role when it comes to external issues. For example, the effects of an organization on infrastructure, surrounding companies or citizens, nature and the environment and safety.

One general CSR principle is to respect the interests of stakeholders. In fact, stakeholders play a central role when it comes to the social responsibility of the organization. They are the persons or organizations that have an interest in the decisions and activities of the organization. An organization should identify its stakeholders and be accessible so new stakeholders can also register.

Organizations should manage their sustainability risks and opportunities. The objective of risk management in the context of CSR is to identify the internal and external risks and opportunities related to the activities of the organization. It aims to create priorities and to manage these risks and opportunities.

This applies not only to the risks and opportunities for the organization itself, but also for the risks and opportunities for society, local environment, economic system, and natural environment. It further includes if stakeholders in the value chain and beyond are able to meet the CSR requirements of laws and regulations, international standards of conduct, industry association agreements and the objectives of the own organization.

The Pillar checks if management is committed and shows leadership with regard to CSR.

It is crucial that CSR is integrated into the management of the organization. An organization has a policy, whether global or detailed, and perhaps also a strategy. What ambitions and goals does the organization pursue with regard to sustainability?

Implementing CSR in the organization is ultimately about integrating CSR into policy, strategy and objectives. This should lead to the inclusion of CSR objectives in, for example, annual plans, department plans, project plans or innovative pilots. This does not alter the fact that some organizations consider it useful – as an intermediate step – to formulate a separate CSR policy first.

The CSR pillar looks at the CSR policy, materiality analysis (what is most relevant in terms of impact) and SMART targets. Next it checks if the policy covers:

• involving the stakeholders
• econtinuously improving sustainability
• innovation
• life-cycle approach.

Openness and transparency are very important in CSR. That is why communication plays a major role. Communicating about CSR makes it easier to involve stakeholders and engage in dialogue with them.

In particular, it can be said that communication on sustainable aspects, needs and performance is best integrated into regular contacts with stakeholders.

ISO 26000 has ordered CSR into seven interrelated core subjects:

• Management of the organization (governance)
• Human rights
• Working conditions/labour practices
• The environment
• Fair operating practices
• Consumer issues
• Involvement with and community development

In the CSR assessment it is checked which of these subjects are addressed in the company policy.

The CSR pillar checks if CSR is implemented and supported in various ways e.g. via action plans, management systems, certificates, training and education of employees, and clearly defining CSR responsibilities.

For operational aspects, this pillar looks at human rights, environmental impact that is not covered by the other pillars (pollution and water systems), fair business practice, corruption prevention and transparency.

The GSES system checks if performance is measured, monitored and assessed with quantitative targets, if this assessment is audited and if the organization draws conclusions from the assessment and works towards continuous improvement.

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