By Melissa J. Anderson

Recently, Symantec released its 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report – showing the company’s continued commitment toward transparency and accountability. It has championed global development and sustainability. Symantec has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Climate Leaders program. It’s a signatory of the UN Global Compact, an active supporter of global gender equality work, and more.

What is interesting about Symantec’s work is the length to which the company has gone to meticulously chart its progress and name its goals. The report contains chart after chart revealing measurable goals and tracking the company’s progress toward them – above and beyond most reports of this kind. Additionally, the report includes extensive discussion on actions the firm is considering, as it moves further into the corporate responsibility space.

Support for Human Rights

In signing the UN Global Compact, Symantec pledged to support human rights. The Global Compact states: “Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.”

As a purveyor of internet security products, the company does a lot of work in web safety, donating software to non-profit organizations. For example, the company donates software to Action Against Child Exploitation (ACE), “a Japan-based NGO that addresses child labor around the world,” and Cambridge Cyrenian, “a United Kingdom non-profit, provides homeless individuals a range of assistance, including accommodation, support, and specialist service.”

But working within the global information space, and by championing human rights, the company also must deal with the issue of free speech. As the company, no doubt, eyes lucrative expansion in the Chinese market, it is, apparently, considering how best to approach the issue. Similarly, while governments around the world, the US included, continue to chip away at individual privacy laws in the name of security, Symantec must determine how best to approach information privacy, as well. For example, the report says:

Currently, Symantec is deciding whether it will join GNI. GNI is a coalition of leading information and communications companies, human rights organizations, academics, investors, and technology leaders that was established in 2009 to protect and advance the human rights of freedom of expression and privacy. The Initiative exists to provide guidance to the ICT industry and its stakeholders when they face pressures from governments to take actions that infringe upon these rights. Our goal in FY11 is to define and publish Symantec’s corporate-wide position on privacy and human rights and determine which external initiatives the company will support.

It looks like the company is trying to decide how far it wants to go in supporting human rights initiatives, as they pertain to free speech and privacy. It’s also providing fodder for a discussion on what constitutes human rights in the first place, and what responsibility companies have in supporting them.

Support for Diversity and Inclusion

Symantec has emphasized the strategic advantage of workforce diversity. In his letter, Enrique Salem, Symantec’s President and CEO, says, “We view workplace diversity and inclusive hiring and promotion as a business imperative. We must reflect the diversity of the global market to best serve our customers and spur innovation.”

For example, he continued, attracting and retaining more female employees is a goal, as is supporting women globally. He writes:

As part of our continuing efforts to promote gender equality, Symantec declared its support for the Women’s Empowerment Principles in May 2010. The Principles, which were developed by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the United Nations Global Compact, identify important steps that businesses can take to advance and empower women.

But while the company leadership has shown strong support for gender equality, the report indicates, only 27% of Symantec’s workforce is composed of women – which, it points out – is the global industry average. The company is providing several women’s leadership programs, diversity training, and affinity networks to try to bolster gender diversity within the company.

Besides its work to attract and retain women, the company “scored 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign‘s 2009 Corporate Equality Index,” and it “received the Best Diversity Company Award from Diversity Careers in Engineering & IT magazine.”

The company also preforms a 2010 Diversity and Inclusion Survey, in which over 7,000 employees participated. According to the report, “88 percent of employees responded favorably to questions regarding the inclusiveness of all people regardless of their race/ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability” and 89 percent of respondents do not believe that race, gender, disability, religion or sexual orientation had an impact on their opportunities at Symantec.”

While the results showed the majority of those surveyed were pleased with the level of inclusiveness within the firm, over a tenth were dissatisfied. The firm has pledged to do more.