The impact of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives - which have proliferated in recent years in rich and emerging nations - cannot be taken for granted, a UN report says.

The report says recent comprehensive assessments of large CSR efforts, such as that by the Ethical Trading Initiative, which promotes CSR in global value chains  including apparel companies, found some improvements related to issues such as overtime, occupational health and safety, and compliance with wage norms.

But, it also found, it says, “neglect” of core international labour rights related to collective bargaining and freedom of association.

The report, called Combating poverty and inequality, also asserts that the CSR agenda has “some blind spots” and says, in some countries, it may have contradictory effects.The report says the CSR agenda ignores issues of corporate power and unequal power relations within value chains and partnerships.

Of particular concern, it says, is that CSR co-exists with the tendency to transfer risks and costs down the supply chain, often forcing suppliers to cut costs and undermining their ability to raise core labour standards.