Roundtable explores challenges of measuring corporate impacts in fragile and conflict-affected environments

Gathering in The Hague, experts discussed how corporate impact can be better measured and also developed recommendations for future practice.

The event on 26 and 27 February was organised by the UN Business and Human Security Initiative at LSE IDEAS, the Institute of Economics and Peace, and Bureau Van Dorp, and supported by the Dutch Knowledge Platform Security and Rule of Law.

The expert roundtable ‘New approaches to measuring corporate impacts in fragile and conflict-affected environments’ sought to build on existing business practices and policy to create new understandings of social impact and how its measurement can contribute to responsible business behaviour and sustainable outcomes in Fragile and Conflict-affected Settings (FCS).

Business today is more aware that it needs to meet growing public expectations on ethical behaviour in order to retain customers, investors, employees, and its licence to operate in and around local communities. In order to realise the ambition of agendas such as the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and encourage the participation of business actors, appropriate ways of assessing and evaluating ESG impacts and their contributions are needed. Current assessment tools focused on key performance indicators fall short in accounting for the types of risk companies face, and for their impacts on local populations. There is an urgent need for new tools that will command respect and utilisation among companies, investors, advisory firms, ESG rating agencies and be recognised by government and civil society. 

In FCS, investors and companies face additional challenges, where traditional methods of monitoring and evaluation may be particularly inadequate and the current knowledge gap is most acute. 

The aim of the roundtable was to address current practice barriers and identify opportunities for new impact assessment tools which can better align policy and practice to desired social goals. Participants included private companies from various industry sectors, representatives of government, the financial sector, academics, and civil society.

Participants were encouraged to consider how unilateral impact assessments, which are the existing standard for private and public sector measurement methodology, can be adapted into collaborative initiatives that treat impact in relational and interactive terms to support a positive business role in transforming these contexts. Discussions focused on defining the corporate responsibility in FCS, how to determine materiality of social impacts and how to integrate human security and positive peace into existing ESG frameworks and standards. 

The project is part of an ongoing programme with the UN to develop a human security approach to private sector contributions to security and development. The roundtable discussed how the approaches of human security, and positive peace implemented through an integrated pillar approach to assessing peace by the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP) could add value to existing measurement practices. 

A report will be produced featuring  initial proposals and recommendations on improved measurement of corporate social impact in FCS.