The EU Commission adopted a new Communication on CSR on 25 October 2011. Hopefully the package will boost financial, social and environmental development for Europe as well. I firmly believe heading for responsible investments instead of charity is the right thing to do. If you don’t have the time to read the whole EU Responsible Business Package you might find this overview useful!
The Communication on CSR forms part of a new Responsible Businesses Package, together with amendments of two directives (the Accounting Directive and the Transparency Directive) and two communications (one giving a general presentation of the Responsible Businesses Package and one on Social Entrepreneurship).
In its CSR Communication, the European Commission puts forward a simpler definition of CSR as “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society”. The new definition is consistent with internationally recognised CSR principles and guidelines, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the ISO 26000 Guidance Standard on Social Responsibility and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The new CSR policy presents an action agenda for the period 2011-2014 covering 8 areas:
- Enhancing the visibility of CSR and disseminating good practices This includes the creation of a European award from 2012 onwards and the establishment in 2013 of sector-based platforms for enterprises and stakeholders to make commitments and jointly monitor progress.
- Improving and tracking levels of trust in business The Commission will launch a public debate on the role of enterprises and organize surveys on citizen trust in business. The Commission will also address the issue of misleading marketing related to “green-washing” in the report on the application of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive foreseen for 2012 and consider the need for possible specific measures on this issue.
- Improving self- and co-regulation processes The Commission will launch a process in 2012 with enterprises and other stakeholders to develop a code of good practice for self- and co-regulation exercises, which should improve the effectiveness of the CSR process.
- Enhancing market reward for CSR This means leveraging EU policies in the fields of consumption, investment and public procurement in order to promote market reward for responsible business conduct.
- Improving company disclosure of social and environmental information The new policy confirms the Commission’s intention to bring forward a new legislative proposal on this issue.
- Further integrating CSR into education, training and research The Commission will provide further support for education and training in the field of CSR and explore opportunities for funding more research.
- Emphasizing the importance of national and sub-national CSR policies The Commission invites EU Member States to present or update their national plans for the promotion of CSR by mid 2012.
- Better aligning European and global approaches to CSR The Commission highlights the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the 10 principles of the UN Global Compact, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the ILO Tri-partite Declaration of Principles on Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy and the ISO 26000 Guidance Standard on Social Responsibility. The Commission aims to monitor the commitments of large European enterprises to take account of internationally recognized guidelines and principles. It will also present a report on EU priorities for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and develop human rights guidance for a limited number of industrial sectors and for small businesses.
According to international principles and guidelines, CSR at least covers human rights, labour and employment practices (such as training, diversity, gender equality and employee health and well-being), environmental issues (such as biodiversity, climate change, resource efficiency, life-cycle assessment and pollution prevention) and combating bribery and corruption. Community involvement and development, the integration of disabled persons, and consumer interests, including privacy, are also part of the CSR agenda. The Commission is, with this policy package, trying to address all of these issues and although it has been welcomed by many involved in CSR policy in Brussels, it has also been criticised for being a bit too vague and weak.
There will be a first opportunity to discuss the Responsible Businesses Package with stakeholders at the Conference on Social Economy and Social Business hosted by the Commission on 18 November in Brussels. See you there?