Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


EC finally sets ‘agenda for action’ to promote Europe-wide CSR

December 2011

The European Commission has published a new policy on corporate social responsibility, for the first time committing the European Union to a precise definition of CSR and outlining a concrete plan of implementation.

The ‘renewed’ three-year ‘EU strategy’ is the commission’s first white paper since a 2006 ‘communication’ that was attacked, even by MEPs, for its vagueness and lack of proposed action.

Unlike its predecessor, which merely stated the ideals of CSR and suggested how Europe might become a ‘pole of excellence’ for their promotion, the new paper has an ‘agenda for action’.

Indeed, it explicitly states that to fully meet their responsibilities to society, businesses “should have in place a process to integrate social, environmental, ethical and human rights concerns into their business operations and core strategy in close collaboration with their stakeholders”.

Emphasis continues to be on the voluntary nature of CSR, however, with the commission suggesting that its governments “play a supporting role through a smart mix of voluntary policy measures and, where necessary, complementary regulation”.

The paper continues: “Enterprises must be given the flexibility to innovate and develop an approach to CSR that is appropriate to their circumstances. Many enterprises nevertheless value the existence of principles and guidelines that are supported by public authorities, to benchmark their own policies and performance, and to promote a more level playing field.”

The agenda for the next three years is a mix of vague ambitions and concrete proposals. Among the latter, there are plans to create a European award scheme for CSR partnerships between enterprises and other stakeholders next year. And, in 2013, the commission proposes a multi-stakeholder CSR platform for enterprises, their workers and other stakeholders to make public commitments on the CSR issues relevant to each sector, and jointly monitor progress.

There is also a plan slated for next year to create a peer review mechanism for national CSR policies within the 27 EU member states, of whom only 15 have national policies that promote CSR, to help unify governmental performance across the continent.

The commission also moots a plan for investment funds and financial institutions, which would make the reporting of ethical or responsible investment criteria or standards they apply compulsory.     

A progress report on the agenda will be published in 2014.

European Commission | Europe | Government role

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