ICC Business Charter for Sustainable

Principles for Environmental Management

International Chamber of Commerce

The first edition of Business Charter for Sustainable Development was adopted by the ICC Executive Board on 27 November 1990, and first published in April 1991. It was prepared and revised by the ICC Working Party for Sustainable Development.

The Business Charter for Sustainable Development provides a basic framework of reference for action by individual corporations and business organisations throughout the world. It has been recognised as a complement to environmental management systems. To this end, the ICC, the United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP) and the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) have developed a kit to help enterprises integrate environmental management systems in the daily management practices, a step consistent with the objectives set out in this Charter. The Business Charter has been published in over 20 languages, including all the official languages of the United Nations.

There is widespread recognition today that environmental protection must be among the highest priorities of every business.

In its milestone 1987 report, "Our Common Future," the World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission) emphasised the importance of environmental protection to the pursuit of sustainable development.

To help business around the world improve its environmental performance, the International Chamber of Commerce created this Business Charter for Sustainable Development. It comprises sixteen Principles for environmental management which, for business, is a vitally important aspect of sustainable development.

This Charter assists enterprises in fulfilling their commitment to environmental stewardship in a comprehensive fashion, in line with national and international guidelines and standards for environmental management. It was formally launched in April 1991 at the Second World Industry Conference on Environmental Management in Rotterdam, and continues to be widely applied and recognised around the world.

Sustainable development involves meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Economic growth provides the conditions in which protection of the environment can best be achieved, and environmental protection, in balance with other human goals, is necessary to achieve growth that is sustainable.

In turn, versatile, dynamic, responsive and profitable businesses are required as the driving force for sustainable economic development and for providing the managerial, technical and financial resources to contribute to the resolution of environmental challenges. Market economies, characterised by entrepreneurial initiatives, are essential to achieve this.

Business thus shares the view that there should be a common goal, not a conflict, between economic development and environmental protection, both now and for future generations.

Making market forces work in this way to protect and improve the quality of the environment - with the help of standards such as ISO 14000, and judicious use of economic instruments in a harmonious regulatory framework _ is an on-going challenge that the world faces in entering the 21st century.

This challenge was recognised by the nations of the world at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, which called on the co-operation of business in tackling it. To this end, business leaders have launched initiatives in their individual enterprises as well as through sectoral and cross-sectoral associations.

In order that more businesses join this effort and that their environmental performance continues to improve, the International Chamber of Commerce continues to call upon enterprises and their associations to use the following Principles as a basis for pursuing such improvement and to express publicly their support for them. Individual programmes to implement these Principles will reflect the wide diversity among enterprises in size and function.

The objective remains that the widest range of enterprises commit themselves to improving their environmental performance in accordance with these Principles, to having in place management practices to effect such improvement, to measuring their progress, and to reporting this progress as appropriate internally and externally.

Note : The term environment as used in this document also refers to environmentally related aspects of health, safety and product stewardship.


1. Corporate priority

To recognise environmental management as among the highest corporate priorities and as a key determinant to sustainable development; to establish policies, programmes and practices for conducting operations in an environmentally sound manner.

2. Integrated management

To integrate these policies, programmes and practices fully into each business as an essential element of management in all its functions.

3. Process of improvement

To continue to improve corporate policies, programmes and environmental performance, taking into account technical developments, scientific understanding, consumer needs and community expectations, with legal regulations as a starting point; and to apply the same environmental criteria internationally.

4. Employee education

To educate, train and motivate employees to conduct their activities in an environmentally responsible manner.

5. Prior assessment

To assess environmental impacts before starting a new activity or project and before decommissioning a facility or leaving a site.

6. Products and services

To develop and provide products or services that have no undue environmental impact and are safe in their intended use, that are efficient in their consumption of energy and natural resources, and that can be recycled, reused, or disposed of safely.

7. Customer advice

To advise, and where relevant educate, customers, distributors and the public in the safe use, transportation, storage and disposal of products provided; and to apply similar considerations to the provision of services.

8. Facilities and operations

To develop, design and operate facilities and conduct activities taking into consideration the efficient use of energy and materials, the sustainable use of renewable resources, the minimisation of adverse environmental impact and waste generation, and the safe and responsible disposal of residual wastes.

9. Research

To conduct or support research on the environmental impacts of raw materials, products, processes, emissions and wastes associated with the enterprise and on the means of minimizing such adverse impacts.

10. Precautionary approach

To modify the manufacture, marketing or use of products or services or the conduct of activities, consistent with scientific and technical understanding, to prevent serious or irreversible environmental degradation.

11. Contractors and suppliers

To promote the adoption of these principles by contractors acting on behalf of the enterprise, encouraging and, where appropriate, requiring improvements in their practices to make them consistent with those of the enterprise; and to encourage the wider adoption of these principles by suppliers.

12. Emergency preparedness

To develop and maintain, where significant hazards exist, emergency preparedness plans in conjunction with the emergency services, relevant authorities and the local community, recognizing potential transboundary impacts.

13. Transfer of technology

To contribute to the transfer of environmentally sound technology and management methods throughout the industrial and public sectors.

14. Contributing to the common effort

To contribute to the development of public policy and to business, governmental and intergovernmental programmes and educational initiatives that will enhance environmental awareness and protection.

15. Openness to concerns

To foster openness and dialogue with employees and the public, anticipating and responding to their concerns about the potential hazards and impacts of operations, products, wastes or services, including those of transboundary or global significance.

16. Compliance and reporting

To measure environmental performance; to conduct regular environmental audits and assessments of compliance with company requirements, legal requirements and these principles; and periodically to provide appropriate information to the Board of Directors, shareholders, employees, the authorities and the public.

Support for the Charter
The ICC undertakes to encourage member companies and others to express their support and implement the Charter and its Principles.

A list of these companies can be obtained from ICC Headquarters. The ICC also publishes regularly a Charter bulletin which provides more specific information on the Charter's Principles and different interpretations possible - an attribute of the Charter that has been widely commended.