Ethical Performance
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German government told to stop ‘plodding’ on CSR

April 2006

An inquiry into the state of CSR in Germany has suggested that the government must significantly increase its commitment to responsible business practice and stop ‘plodding’ along.

Recommendations to be presented to the government by the German Council for Sustainable Development think-tank say that in general progress on CSR has been slow – and that ‘for the most part, the German government keeps out of the discussion’, making little effort to exert influence at national, European or international level. As a result, ‘too few German enterprises’ are active.
The inquiry, led by Eggert Voscherau, deputy chairman of the chemical company BASF, with input from trade unionists, academics and consumer and religious groups, concludes that the government must first establish a ‘high-ranking political CSR discussion group’ to make business responsibility a talking point throughout the country.

This government-led group would ‘improve the climate for CSR, create a political sounding board for best-practice examples and ... support new CSR projects’.

Among the recommendations are that the government get its own house in order by adopting CSR-based procurement programmes and SRI policies for its pension funds and other investments, consider introducing corporate responsibility as a subject in the education system, and sponsor regional events and training for small businesses.

However, the council says the government must firmly back the voluntary approach and shun regulation, ‘as this is the only way to achieve innovative and competition-oriented action’. It also says that there is no need to add further substantive CSR measures to existing legislation on environmental and social matters.

The inquiry panel members include Edda Muller, chair of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations, Heinz Putzhammer, board member of the German Federation of Trade Unions, and Marlehn Thieme, a member of Germany’s Council of Lutheran Churches.

The recommendations are still in draft form, but should be finalized in the summer.

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