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UK decides to become global CSR cheerleader

April 2004

The UK government is to deepen its involvement in CSR by acting as an advocate on the international stage.

A draft global framework published by CSR minister Stephen Timms says that because Britain is seen internationally as a pioneer in the field of corporate social responsibility, ‘many in the international community therefore look to the UK government to play a leading role in promoting CSR’.

Timms said this would ‘ensure that we keep up our active contribution to the policy debate’ and was ‘pivotal if we are to be clear about … our priorities for future progress at the international level’.

The framework says the government will use its embassies and diplomatic staff ‘to promote CSR principles to governments, companies and civil society and explain the role they can play in promoting sustainable development’.

The Department of Trade and Industry will forge links with networks of CSR practitioners in UK companies and non-governmental organizations abroad, and with international initiatives such as the United Nations Global Compact and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

Another priority will be to raise social and environmental issues as they relate to business at international forums, such as the G8 group of leading world economies, the Doha Development Agenda and the Commission on Sustainable Development. Ministers say they will aim to encourage such institutions to ‘integrate CSR considerations into their actions and outcomes’.

Although the government is reluctant to support international regulation in this area, it notes that ‘careful assessment of possible governmental or inter-governmental interventions’ is needed.

It wants the various codes and guidelines streamlined, and more concrete CSR action ‘rather than refinement of definitions and abstract analysis of concepts’.

The government’s priorities will be to spread best practice ‘from the few to the many’ and to encourage international and inter-governmental institutions to avoid duplication of effort.

One of its key vehicles for spreading best practice will be the planned CSR Academy, a UK-based training and education centre. It also wants to help businesses to work on poverty eradication ‘through more effective partnerships with host governments and other stakeholders’.

The government intends to finalize the framework, which is now out to consultation, before the summer.

It says ministers want to spend more time spreading the CSR message, not just because they believe in it, but because in doing so they will improve the image of UK business and global governance.

‘By helping to ensure that private sector activity works to the benefit of those affected by it, good CSR practices can help to ensure that trade and investment are a positive force for sustainable development in a globalized world,’ it says.




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