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Corporate Social Responsibility in the EU

25 August 2006
by eub2 -- last modified 25 August 2006

Companies throughout the European Union are showing growing awareness of the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in business.


What is CSR?

The EU definition of CSR is:

A concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis.  (Commission Green Paper 2001 “Promoting a European Framework for Corporate Social Responsibility”, COM(2001)366 Final)

Amongst other things, this definition helps to emphasise that:

  • CSR covers social and environmental issues, in spite of the English term corporate social responsibility; 

  • CSR is not or should not be separate from business strategy and operations: it is about integrating social and environmental concerns into business strategy and operations; 

  • CSR is a voluntary concept; 

  • an important aspect of CSR is how enterprises interact with their internal and external stakeholders (employees, customers, neighbours, non-governmental organisations, public authorities, etc.)

The Commission has recently published (22 March 2006) a new communication on CSR entitled “Implementing the Partnership for Growth and Jobs: Making Europe a pole of excellence on CSR” (COM(2006)136 final)

In this communication, the Commission announces backing for a European Alliance for CSR.  This is an open alliance of European enterprises to further promote and encourage CSR.  The alliance is a political umbrella for CSR initiatives by large companies, small and medium-sized enterprises, and their stakeholders.  It is not a legal instrument to be signed by enterprises, but rather a vehicle for mobilising the resources and capacities of European enterprises and their stakeholders in the interests of sustainable development, economic growth and job creation. 

The communication acknowledges that enterprises are the primary actors in CSR, but also stresses the important contribution of non-business stakeholders. In the text, the Commission states that “it continues to attach utmost importance to dialogue with and between all stakeholders”, and recognises that “without the active support and constructive criticism of non-business stakeholders, CSR will not flourish.”

The communication underlines the potential of CSR to contribute to sustainable development and to the European Growth and Jobs Strategy.  The Commission suggests that CSR practices, while not a substitute for public policy, can nevertheless contribute to a number of public policy objectives, such as: skills development, more rational use of natural resources, better innovation performance, poverty reduction, and greater respect for human rights.

The communication also identifies 8 areas which the Commission will emphasise in further promoting CSR:

  • Awareness-raising and best practice exchange
  • Support to multi-stakeholder initiatives
  • Cooperation with Member States
  • Consumer information and transparency
  • Research
  • Education
  • Small and medium-sized enterprises
  • The international dimension of CSR

The communication and backing for the launch of the European Alliance mark an important new stage in the development of European policy on CSR.

Corporate Social Responsibility for SMEs: Documentation Centre

European Commission CSR website

Source: European Commission

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