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ESDN Quarterly Report December 2011
Focus CSR: The New Communication of the EU Commission on CSR and National CSR Strategies and Action Plans
This Quarterly Report refers to recent developments concerning Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Most importantly, the new Communication on CSR that was published by the European Commission in late October 2011 will be presented and discussed with two leading policy makers. We talked with Tom Dodd (DG Enterprise and Industry), who was one of the key actors in preparing the new Communication, and with Sue Bird (DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion), who is in charge of co-ordinating the CSR High Level Group. During the last months, we collected and analysed these policy documents, both from EU Member States and from countries outside the EU. The results are presented in the second part of this report, where you can find comprehensive overviews as well as three case studies of outstanding approaches (Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands). Our aim is to demonstrate the diverse roles of CSR strategies and action plans in Europe and beyond.
The new EU Communication on CSR puts forward a new understanding of CSR, which no longer refers to CSR as voluntary action beyond compliance but highlights that every corporation causes impacts which is responsible for. The impact areas (formerly just society and environment) have been enlarged by ethical, human rights and consumer concerns. To support policy learning among the European Member States, the Commission invites Member States to develop or update national CSR strategies and action plans and sets up a peer review system of public CSR policies. The maturity of public CSR policies differs among the European Member states significantly: Two thirds of the EU Member states already have a CSR strategy and action plan in place or are currently developing such a policy document (the findings are presented online using a clickable map with all country profiles). Scandinavia, the Anglo-Saxon region and Central Europe, are leading regions. Among Southern European countries, Spain may serve as a role model due to their mature and integrated approach. The Baltic States and Slovakia are on their way to develop national CSR strategies and action plans. In contrast, many Eastern European countries have not published any plan to develop a national CSR strategy and action plan by now. With regards to policy instruments, soft policy approaches are the most common in public CSR strategies and action plans. In terms of Governance structures, vertical and horizontal integration is the most common policy tool. The low number of CSR strategies and action plans containing indicators, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms raises the impression that many of these documents are not yet full-fledged strategies by now. We therefore recommend an increased knowledge exchange between policy makers who deal with CSR policies and the members of the ESDN.
1We would like to thank Megan Ahearn, University of Florida at Gainesville, for the English proofreading.
Corporate Social Responsibility and similar concepts became more and more important during the last decades as a response to a loss of public trust in individual companies (e.g. the cases of ENRON, Parmalat, BP, Nike, etc.) and in the whole economic system (e.g. anti-globalization movement, occupy movement). During the last decade, a number of international initiatives tried to cope with these developments by rebuilding trust in businesses and by improving their environmental and societal impacts. Corporate Register, the leading organization in collecting, publishing and analyzing CSR reports and sustainability reports worldwide (for details see www.corporateregister.com) collected more than 30.000 reports from about 7.500 companies worldwide by now. Research findings on CSR could fill libraries, although they might have been carried out under different headlines, e.g. business ethics, corporate citizenship, corporate sustainability. A recent milestone is the new CSR Communication that the European Union published in October 2011 (European Commission, 2011), which states that CSR is the responsibility of every company for its impacts on the environment and society. Therefore, CSR is no longer an issue for highly motivated frontrunners, but a concern for all businesses, independent of their size, sector, or location.
In the ESDN, the issue of CSR has been touched twice already: the ESDN Quarterly Report June 2008 addressed CSR, and the ESDN-Conference 2008 aimed at coordinating CSR policies with Sustainable Development Strategies. In both cases, the focus was on CSR policies in general and on individual policy instruments (e.g. Sustainable Public Procurement, Socially Responsible Investment). With this Quarterly Report, we take a strategic policy planning perspective and try to shed light on how CSR strategies are implemented at the European and national level. To our impression, these documents show certain links and similarities to national Sustainable Development Strategies concerning content and governance structures. At the same time they try to integrate individual CSR policy instruments into coherent policy mixes. These innovative attempts offer the opportunity for policy learning between European Member states and between different policy areas. Therefore, dealing with CSR strategies is another step of diversification for the ESDN to encourage exchange with related areas of sustainable development policy.
In the general, public CSR is often seen as “doing good”. Businesses make donations to civil society and environmental organizations, initiate partnerships and sponsor projects in developing countries, build solar power units and wind engines, spend money on voluntary benefits of employees or neighbours, to name a few examples. CSR can also be seen as „not doing bad“. This approach to CSR is equally diverse and bears certain emotional connotations. If a company is proven to have their products produced using child labour, to be accountable for environmental disasters or to ignore fundamental democratic rights, customer loyalty is quickly jeopardized. In rare cases, CSR is seen as a strategic success factor (“being successful”), when societal and environmental concerns are integrated into all core decisions of a business and new business models are being developed. This approach is addressed by the concepts of social entrepreneurship and shared value.
As a consequence, a broad variety of terms, approaches, and concepts emerged: about forty years ago, Votaw (1972) noticed that “corporate social responsibility means something, but not always the same thing to everybody” (p. 25). About twenty years later, Carroll (1994) confirmed this situation by stating that the CSR discipline is “an eclectic field with loose boundaries, multiple memberships and differing training/perspectives; broadly rather than focused, multidisciplinary; wide breadth; brings in a wider range of literature; and interdisciplinary” (p. 14). Fifteen years later, Henderson (2001) affirmed that “there is no solid and well-developed consensus which provides a basis for action” and just a few years ago, Okoye (2009) stated that “CSR as a concept is sometimes perceived as fuzzy, unclear and contested” (p. 614).
We will not be able to provide an ultimate solution to this problem, but we would like to identify certain key elements of CSR. To explain and define CSR, researchers had so far applied different methodological approaches: Some were summarizing existing definitions (e.g. Carroll 1999; Moir 2001; Joyner and Payne 2002; Carter and Jennings 2004) , others were conducting interviews (e.g. O’Dwyer 2002; Johnston and Beatson 2005), analyzing research papers (e.g. Dahlsrud 2008; Montiel 2008; Taneja, Taneja et al. 2011) , or dealing with the development of a CSR definition through theoretical reasoning (e.g. Göbbels 2002; Van Marrewijk 2003; Matten and Crane 2005) . The following common characteristics can be seen as a list of key elements that are most commonly used:
Summarizing these elements, CSR can be seen as a voluntary business contribution to the guiding societal model of sustainable development, and an active corporate engagement that goes beyond legal compliance (e.g. European Commission, 2001, European Commission, 2002).
From a content point of view, the most commonly applied CSR guidance documents can be taken as a basis to systematize CSR, e.g. OECD Guidelines for Multi-National Enterprises (2000, 2008), Global Reporting Initiative (GRI, 2000-2006), UN Global Compact, ISO 26000 (2008), SA 8000, UN Human Rights Norms for Business (2003) and the ILO Declarations (1998, 2001).
Table 1: List of generic CSR topics (Martinuzzi, Gisch-Boie et al. 2010)
Corporate Register is the leading organization in collecting, publishing and analyzing CSR reports and sustainability reports worldwide (for details see www.corporateregister.com). Until today, this knowledge hub contains more than 30.000 reports from about 7.500 companies. Their long-term analysis shows that environmental reporting, which dominated the 1990s has been constantly replaced by sustainability reporting and corporate responsibility reporting (which is both addressed by the term CSR in this proposal).
Concerning the regional spread, European companies are by far the most active in corporate responsibility reporting, with constant growth rates over the last decade.
Fourteen of the top 20 reporting countries are European, among which the United Kingdom plays an outstanding role, followed by Germany, Italy, Spain, and France.
The idea of businesses gaining competitive advantages through CSR is the core of the business case for CSR, which is seen as a highly promising way to line up societal needs, environmental constraints and corporate interests, while creating shared value for businesses and society (Porter/Kramer 2011). If it could be proven that responsibility pays off, a strong push for dissemination of good CSR practices would be expected. The assumption that CSR leads to competitive advantage is not self-evident, as high social and environmental standards lead to higher production costs in the short run. Two groups of medium and long-run returns have been discussed that could compensate for higher production costs and lead to competitive advantages for pro-active companies: the first one puts emphasis on product quality and focuses on high-end market niches (e.g. in the bio-food sector and in high end fashion); the second one assumes that higher standards lead to innovations and create a better position in a technology driven competition (e.g. in the area of eMobility and renewable energies). Based on this so-called Porter-Hypothesis (see also Wagner 2003) the European Competitiveness Report 2008 highlights several areas in which CSR could lead to increased competitiveness and asks for more in-depth research: “The overlap between competitiveness and CSR at macro and sector level may be greater than is often acknowledged. More research is required, however, in order to measure and analyse the ways in which CSR might enhance competitiveness at the macro-level and sector levels.” (European Commission 2008, p. 119).
Aside from these theoretical considerations and policy papers, a broad variety of empirical studies examined the competitive advantage of CSR. Based on rather different definitions of both terms, and using various approaches and indicators, these studies came to rather different and sometime contradicting conclusions. Therefore, meta-analyses are seen as an important step forward to achieving robust and far-reaching results, while other authors discuss the fundamental nature of CSR and competitiveness, its potential links and contradictions. Margolis & Walsh (2003) reviewed and assessed 127 empirical studies exploring the relationship of Corporate Social Performance (CSP) and Corporate Financial Performance (CFP) (Margolis and Walsh 2003). They came to the conclusion that there are more findings suggesting a positive link, and only very little evidence of negative associations. Orlitzky/Schmidt/Rynes (2003) carried out another meta-analysis of 52 studies assessing the CSP-CFP link (Orlitzky, Siegel et al. 2011). They gave more detailed insights into the positive link based on the fact that CSP helps companies to build a positive reputation and goodwill with its external stakeholders, but also a positive feedback loop from CFP to CSP, constituting a virtuous circle for pro-active companies. Endrikat/Günther/Hoppe (2011) came to a similar result concerning the links of Corporate Environmental Performance (CEP) and Corporate Financial Performance (CFP) carrying out a meta-analysis of 119 studies, including ones which provided evidence for a positive relationship, a negative relationship, or neutral results. Based on a meta-regression approach, the authors were able to identify a positive CEP-CFP relationship, which – again – constitutes a virtuous circle (Endrikat, Günther et al. 2011, p. 17). Vilanova/Lozano/Arenas (2009) conducted a literature review to explore the nature of the relationship between CSR and competitiveness and found that learning and innovation are key links of CSR and competitiveness, explaining the virtuous circle that the other authors identified but did not describe in detail (Vilanova, Lozano et al. 2009).
A more critical perspective on the business case for CSR is taken by Quairel-Lanoizelee (2011), who distinguished four approaches: (a) the traditional economics approach (which considers CSR as useless and even as a disguised form of protectionism, (b) mainstream CSR theories (which ignore competitive pressures, (c) the CSR business case (which she regards as a self-fulfilling prophecy) and (d) trade-off approaches (which try to asses under which conditions CSR can lead to increased competitiveness by applying cost-benefit analyses). Based on a comparison of financial reports and CSR reports of 34 stock listed French companies, the author concludes that most of the companies follow a consensual logic of CSR, utilize CSR reports just as documents of self-promotion, and ignore (at least in their reports) that competition might be a constraint for CSR implementation (et Quairel-Lanzoizelee and Capron 2007).
This broad range of empirical results led Raghubir et al. (2010) to the conclusion: “After 36 years, 167 studies, and 16 reviews of the relationship between CSR and financial performance, the answer to the debate about whether CSR is profitable is unambiguously clear: it depends.” (Raghubir, Roberts et al. 2010, p. 69). But on what does it depend? One could assume that public CSR policies could play an important role. Therefore the next chapter describes the most important CSR policy instruments, guidelines, and standards.
Public CSR policies are as diverse as corporate CSR measures. They have in common that they try to inform and motivate companies to take action in implementing CSR measures, to use the power of market and competition to promote and disseminate CSR, and to guarantee a high level of quality in implementing CSR. Several authors came up with typologies of public CSR policies:
In October 2011 the European Commission published a new Communication on CSR (http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/sustainable-business/files/csr/new-csr/act_en.pdf). It builds on previous Communications (2002 and 2006) and sets several milestones for public CSR policies in Europe and beyond. In this chapter we present the core elements of this new Communication, highlight differences to previous Communications and discuss this new policy document from a strategic public management perspective.
Figure 7 shows a word-chart of the terms used in the new CSR communication. Following this first impression, we describe the most important parts of the document.
The first and most obvious difference between the previous CSR communications (2002 and 2006) and the new one is the title: while the previous one simply used the term “Communication” in its title, the new one calls itself a “renewed EU strategy for CSR” and clearly indicates that it wants to be perceived as a policy strategy.
In the introduction chapter, the Communication refers to the previous CSR Communication 2006 and highlights that CSR is in the interest of enterprises and of society as a whole. In doing so, it follows the idea of “shared value” (recently made popular by Porter/Kramer 2011), which concerns both interest groups – business (by linking CSR to growth, competitiveness, and innovation) and society (by linking CSR to a more cohesive society and a sustainable economic system). Additional references are made to the economic crisis, its social consequences, damages to consumer confidence and trust in business, and the public attention on the social and ethical performance of businesses.
The second chapter summarizes a number of policy actions taken by the commission during the last decade, and presents several facts which could be seen as indicators for CSR dissemination in the business sector (e.g. the increase of companies which have implemented environmental management schemes or signed one of the diverse standards - in total several hundred to a few thousand companies). Based on the assessment that “many companies in the EU have not yet fully integrated social and environmental concerns into their operations and core strategies” (p. 5) and the finding that “only a small fraction of the 42.000 large companies operating in the EU” (p. 11) publish CSR reports, a number of factors are described which should help to further increase the impact of the Commissions’ CSR policy. Among them, the need for a balanced multi-stakeholder approach, for market rewards for responsible business conduct, for more transparency, and for greater attention to human rights are remarkable. These factors link to several principles of sustainable development and good governance, although both terms are not used in this section.
Chapter three can be seen as the most important progress that the new CSR Communication provides, as the Commission puts forward a new definition for CSR which creates a really new perspective. While the previous communication (and a great number of publications which took up this perspective) defined CSR as “a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis”, the new Communication defines CSR as “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society”. Although it can be expected that a number of scholarly and journalistic papers will comment on this new perspective in more depth in the near future, we would like to discuss this new definition here in brief in order to highlight the advances and challenges which arise from this shift in view:
To emphasize the need that European CSR policy should be made fully consistent with internationally recognized principles and guidelines, several of them are quoted. Compared to the previous Communication, several new international documents were integrated into this list of references (e.g. Single Market Act, Public Procurement Directives, UN Principles for Responsible Investment). However, two of the most important reference documents of sustainable development policy are no longer quoted in the new Communication: the European Sustainable Development Strategy (EU SDS) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This remarkable fact might be explained by a loss of practical importance of the EU SDS compared to the Europe 2020 Strategy (which is quoted several times), and by the high importance of Human Rights (which might be perceived as the business responsibility while the MDGs might be seen rather as the responsibility of states and international organisations). From the content point of view, several objectives of the EU SDS (e.g. biodiversity, resource efficiency) are emphasized in the chapter on the multidimensional nature of CSR, while most of the objectives of the MDGs are not touched (e.g. global partnership, fighting poverty and hunger; health is just limited to employee health).
In the following sub-chapter, the role of public authorities is described. In this part, as well as in the whole new Communication, another shift in perspective can be observed: While the previous communication highlighted that CSR is not a substitute for public policy and called for improved consistency of policies, the new one refers explicitly to the supporting role that public authorities can play through “a smart mix of voluntary policy measures and, where necessary, complementary regulation”, to promote transparency, to provide market incentives, and to ensure accountability. This emphasis on the role of public CSR policies (combined with the call for CSR strategies and action plans) seems to be targeted towards mainly Eastern European countries, in which CSR is perceived as solely part of the business sector. However, the new Communication still highlights that “the development of CSR should be led by enterprises themselves”. At the end of the third chapter, the Social Business Initiative and sectoral social dialogue committees are mentioned.
The fourth chapter provides an Agenda for Action for the period 2011 to 2014, contains eight fields of action, describes 13 actions which the Commission intends to carry out, and determines five areas in which the Commission invites other stakeholders to take action or expects them to do so:
The conclusion chapter describes a review mechanism for the new CSR Communication, which contains an implementation report and a review meeting to be held by mid 2014. In this process, the CSR High Level Group and the European Multi-stakeholder Forum on CSR are expected to play an important role.
Summary and conclusions from a strategic public management perspective:
During the last decade, strategies have become more and more important policy documents in several areas (e.g. Sustainable Development Strategies, Biodiversity Strategies, Climate Strategies, Green Growth Strategies). In doing so approaches, experiences and tools from strategic management of businesses have been transferred to the public sector and implemented in the area of policy making and high level administration. This strategic approach often tries to simultaneously follow principles of good governance and of sustainable development, e.g. policy coherence, openness and participation, effectiveness and accountability, combination of strong long-term objectives and decentralized implementation processes. This knowledge transfer from the business to the public sector can be characterized as “Strategic Public Management”. It puts emphasis on effectiveness of policies while the “New Public Management” approach focussed on the efficiency of their implementation (for more details see Steurer and Martinuzzi 2005).
The new CSR communication can be understood as an important step to establish public CSR policies as an autonomous and legitimate policy area, and to make use of strategic management approaches in this area. Many policy instruments mentioned in the new CSR communication can be categorized either as soft policy instruments (e.g. platforms, award schemes, monitoring of corporate actions), just as references to existing processes (e.g. the SCP action plan, the review of several EU directives) or could be criticized as rather vague (e.g. explore opportunities for financing further research and innovation). Three key elements of the new Communication can be assessed as significant steps towards strategic public management in the area of CSR: the call for national CSR strategies and action plans (and in addition for national plans for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles), the establishment of a peer review mechanism on CSR policies, and the substantial new definition of CSR as such. Although the Communication does not provide any guidance or information about quality criteria for these action plans, nor advice on how the coherence between the different strategies could be guaranteed (e.g. national Sustainable Development Strategies or National Reform Programmes are not mentioned at all), it can be expected that the peer review mechanism will ensure coherence between the different strategies in a specific Member State, as well as policy learning between them.
To gain more insights into the aims and perspectives of the new CSR Communication, we conducted telephone interviews with two representatives of the European Commission who were deeply involved in its preparation and will be in charge of implementing its actions.
On December 5th, the ESDN Office conducted an interview with Tom Dodd concerning the new Communication. An executive summary and the whole interview are presented in this chapter.
Tom Dodd is the CSR Policy Officer at DG Enterprise and Industry, where he was responsible for CSR for the last seven years. In this function, he has contributed to the Commission’s policies and projects for CSR, and in particular to the new CSR communication of the European Commission that was published in October 2011.
In this interview, he highlights the most important issues concerning the new Communication and how it will influence the future position of CSR in Europe. In his opinion, the new definition of CSR has the potential to overcome the debate about voluntary or mandatory CSR, and may serve as a reference point for both companies and EU Member States. The European Commission expects all companies to be responsible for their impacts, independent of their size, sector, or legal structure. The EU Member States are invited to set up national CSR strategies and action plans. Although several governance structures are foreseen (e.g. Peer Reviews), it was not the intention of the European Commission to set up binding guidelines, but to present a document which builds on existing internationally recognised guidelines and goes along with EU 2020 strategy. Tom Dodd’s key messages address the strategic aspects of CSR: European companies should be leading by increasing their positive impacts and by reducing their negative impacts on the environment and society. This can best be achieved when CSR is integrated into the companies’ core business strategies.
ESDN OFFICE: After five years, the new EU Communication is a milestone for disseminating the idea of CSR. What are the most important points of this communication? What are the main steps forward compared to the previous communication?
Tom Dodd: The starting point has to be the new definition, which is at the heart of the new Communication. It expresses what the European Commission is thinking on CSR and will hopefully be the solid basis for a number of years to come.
Another important point is that this Communication in effect states that the European framework for CSR is the global framework, and not a separate European set of guidelines or principles. We want to encourage Member States to refer to it, and above all we encourage European enterprises to use that core set of global internationally recognized CSR principles and guidelines.
ESDN OFFICE: Were there any responses after the publication of the Communication?
Tom Dodd: Most reactions have been positive. We have seen a variety of different responses from different stakeholders. We have had reactions from some non-governmental organizations, stating that our approach is too soft. We have also had some reactions from some business associations expressing caution about the possible use of regulatory instruments.
ESDN OFFICE: Was there any specific feedback on CSR and the recent crisis? Especially when thinking about the current crisis - as some people do – as a credibility crisis or crisis of trust - Is CSR a way to respond to the crisis?
Tom Dodd: CSR can be seen as a way out of the crisis by trying to build higher level of trust in enterprises. But this is not possible within a short period of time - it must be seen from a long-term perspective. CSR won’t be a sort of magic stimulus to European growth over the next six months. In the Communication we state that it is about setting the conditions for a dynamic economy based on smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in the medium to long term.
ESDN OFFICE: The new CSR Communication provides a new definition of CSR, which is “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society”. What was the reason to change the definition and what does this imply for the whole policy field? Does the new definition change the role of environmental issues and sustainable development in CSR?
Tom Dodd: We wanted to ensure that our definition was at least consistent with the practice of many leading European businesses, and with internationally recognized CSR principles and guidelines. For Europe to continue to play a leading a role in the field of CSR we needed to take account of developments at the international level, including the update of the OECD guidelines, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the ISO 26000 guidance standard on social responsibility.
ESDN OFFICE: “Voluntary or mandatory” has been a big issue in CSR. How do the new Communication and especially the new definition address this discussion?
Tom Dodd: If CSR is the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society, then it does not make sense to ask whether CSR is voluntary or mandatory. Every enterprise has impacts on society, so every enterprise has a social responsibility.
ESDN OFFICE: There was a long debate about the relation between sustainable development as a sort of societal or policy objective, and CSR as the contribution of the business sector to sustainable development. How do you see this relation between CSR and sustainable development?
Tom Dodd: We have a holistic understanding of the impacts of business that also includes a natural link between CSR and sustainable development. In this understanding, business along with other organisations should contribute to sustainable development through maximizing the positive impacts and as well as mitigating and preventing the negative impacts. We want and need all enterprises to contribute to sustainable development, wellbeing and growth.
ESDN OFFICE: From an institutional point of view: What are the institutional links between these two policy areas? There is a European sustainable development strategy, there is a new CSR communication, there will be national CSR strategies and action plans, and there are national sustainable development strategies. How do you think these two areas be linked in the future so that coherence and governance structures exist?
Tom Dodd: One intention of the Communication was to build CSR policy as a contribution to the Europe 2020 strategy, which includes several aspects of sustainable development. Therefore, we did not need to refer to the European Sustainable Development Strategy explicitly. For the implementation, we mainly rely on the European Multistakeholder Forum for CSR, and on cooperation with EU Member States through the CSR High Level Group. Besides these two mechanisms, we do not plan to set up additional structures of institutional coordination.
ESDN OFFICE: Do you see this new Communication as a reference point for CSR, as for example Brundtland was for sustainable development, which will be expanded or transferred into concrete instruments by others (but not by the Commission right now)?
Tom Dodd: This is very much part what we are trying to do with our new definition – to create a reference for future work and future thinking on future action.
ESDN OFFICE: The Communication mentions “To maximize the creation of shared value, enterprises are encouraged to adopt a long-term, strategic approach to CSR” – how can this idea be adopted by companies which are experiencing other challenges in times of crisis? Aren’t companies right now forced to concentrate on their core businesses and react on an operational level to new challenges?
Tom Dodd: Enterprises, simply by existing and operating, by employing people and producing goods and services, are generating wealth and impacting society. So the question then is: is that impact positive or negative? Of course you will find examples of both, and sometimes within the same company. And of course this can involve subjective judgment: somebody’s positive impact maybe somebody else’s negative impact.
ESDN OFFICE: The role of public authorities and other stakeholders is specifically mentioned in the communication (section 3.4 and following). What role will public authorities play in fostering CSR change in the future? Which instruments, indicators, or governmental structures are in your opinion most promising for implementing CSR strategies and action plans? What are potential implications of the new CSR communication for national sustainability strategies?
Tom Dodd: The role for public authorities in fostering CSR, based on the new Communication, hasn’t radically changed. Of course, various things may change and they may change with practice and not necessarily as a result of what is said in the Communication. What has changed is that the Commission has expressed its expectations more clearly. The Commission has said, in generic terms, what it thinks a company should do to fully meet its social responsibility.
ESDN OFFICE: Are there any specific guidelines and quality criteria for national CSR strategies and national plans for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles? Some of the national CSR strategies of EU Member States in place will end in 2011 or 2012. When renewing the national CSR strategies, what must be included in a renewed strategy?
Tom Dodd: In the Communication, we have set out a number of orientations and themes that are, in our opinion, the key issues to address. From a national perspective, they may look a little bit different, but I think most of the issues are likely to be broadly be similar. But different business cultures, different legal cultures, different public policy cultures mean that promoting CSR will look different from Member State to Member State.
ESDN OFFICE: Do you have any sort of ideas about what implementation structures Member States should employ? Are there any good examples – best cases in terms of implementation procedures?
Tom Dodd: In our experience, involvement of stakeholders is one important issue. It is important that stakeholders have the possibility to communicate with each other and are encouraged to provide input to the government’s plans. Member States with reasonably solid mechanisms for promoting dialogue between different stakeholders in place may serve as role models. They are likely to end up with a policy that’s more effective and more balanced. But clearly, different Member States will do this differently.
ESDN OFFICE: Concerning the links of national CSR strategies and national plans for the implementation of the UN guiding principles on business and human rights – how should these two strategies or action plans be merged or implemented in a coherent way?
Tom Dodd: We’ve adopted a new policy on CSR that refers to the UN guiding principles on business and human rights as an important area. Furthermore, we will issue a separate report on what our priorities are for implementing of the UN guiding principles by the end of next year. We shouldn’t underestimate either the impact of the UN guiding principles or the complexity of implementing them. It will be up to Member States to decide whether and how they integrate the implementation of the UN guiding principles on business and human rights with any national strategy they may have to promote CSR more generally.
ESDN OFFICE: What are the key messages that you want to send to national policy makers who are responsible for CSR strategies and sustainability strategies?
Tom Dodd: Business - through its innovation capacity - is critical for the creation of sustainable systems. It becomes ever more important to ask where businesses are orientating their innovation capacities and why. Enterprises are superb vehicles for innovation and that’s precisely what we need them to have a sustainable system.
On December 12th, the ESDN Office conducted an interview with Sue Bird concerning the new Communication. An executive summary and the whole interview are presented in this chapter.
Sue Bird is Policy-Coordinator in the areas of corporate social responsibility at DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. For more than five years she is coordinating the CSR High-Level Group (CSR-HLG), a network of representatives of the EU member states dealing with public CSR strategies and policies. The CSR-HLG contracted out several Europe-wide studies on CSR policies (e.g. the CSR Compendium) and will play a prominent role in the peer review process on national CSR strategies and action plans, which is foreseen in the new CSR communication.
In this interview, Sue Bird accentuates the key issues of the new Communication from the point of view of DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. She describes how it will influence the continuing development of CSR within and outside Europe. She points to the international dimension, which will be in the focus of national CSR activities through the next years, as international guidelines and principles will serve as benchmarks for national CSR strategies and action plans. In addition, she highlights the social component of CSR and the role of CSR in regaining consumers’ loyalty and public trust in businesses. To create a solid basis for a common vision of CSR, working and learning together with EU Member States and stakeholders is required. Her key messages address Member States and their work already done in the field of CSR. This is the basis on which cooperation with and encouragement of new Member States in their ambitions to create national CSR strategies or action plans will take place. In this context, she puts high expectations into the peer review mechanism, which is foreseen in the new CSR communication.
ESDN Office: After five years the new EU Communication is a milestone for disseminating the idea of CSR. What do you perceive as the most important points of this communication? What are the main steps forward compared to the previous communication?
Sue Bird: There are different points, which are important at different sections in different ways. First, there is the international dimension of CSR, which has increased over the last few years and receives more prominence in the new Communication. Second, there is a new definition of CSR, which is an important milestone for the further development of CSR. Third, the relevance of CSR reporting and non-financial disclosure increased in the new Communication, because the EU Commission has committed itself to a legislative initiative in this area 2012.
ESDN Office: You mentioned certain key elements of CSR policies, such as social responsible investment, public procurement etc. Would you expect that those elements will be included in national CSR strategies and action plans?
Sue Bird: Most EU Member States - to varying extent - already include these elements in their CSR strategies and action plans, and some of them undertake similar CSR activities. While the policy areas are rather similar, the policy instruments vary from commitments as strategies and action plans, to stronger instruments as legislation on certain aspects of CSR, or to softer measures as information campaigns. Although there is a certain variety of approaches to CSR, an overall commitment to support CSR and several key elements are observable all across the EU Member States.
ESDN Office: Did you get any sort of feedback on the new communication by now?
Sue Bird: There was feedback from different sources. For example, we received feedback on the issue of the long debate on CSR being voluntary or mandatory. We haven't used those terms in the Communication anymore, because we experienced how polarizing they are for the debate.
ESDN Office: The new CSR Communication provides a new definition of CSR, which is “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society”. What was the reason for changing the definition and what does this imply for the whole policy field?
Sue Bird: We experienced that the definition in the 2006 Communication was maybe too open. NGOs expressed their concerns about the voluntariness of CSR and asked for a more prominent role of Human Rights. We took these concerns very seriously, and in association with all stakeholders, identified that further action must be taken in the field of reporting.
ESDN Office: Another aspect in the new definition is that it no longer differentiates between different types of companies – big ones or small ones, proactive ones, non-compliance or within compliance - because every company has impacts. What was the reason for this?
Sue Bird: This position demonstrates that the engagement of small and large companies in CSR is equally desirable. Due to the progress made in CSR since 2006, we have safely assumed that we can be a bit more demanding in terms of CSR definition and implementation.
ESDN Office: The idea behind the impact orientation of the new CSR communication is about increasing positive impacts and reducing negative impacts. On the first sight, this seems to be a good narrative for communicating CSR. But aren’t there any cases in which a corporate decision causes positive impacts for one stakeholder while it might simultaneously have negative impacts for others?
Sue Bird: One key element for understanding impacts is the existence of CSR strategies and the mainstreaming of values throughout the company. For example, the dismissal of employees may have positive impacts on the company, stakeholders, and employees staying who gain better career chances, but it also has negative impacts, obviously for those who are dismissed, the region in terms of unemployment, and so on. CSR strategies and mainstreaming of values means that the company should offer support for new jobs, severance or redundancy packages, retraining, or other measures to support the former employees and strengthen the region. To meet CSR, at least all efforts should be made in good faith. Trust and reputation are important elements for companies. Companies which are experienced as being trustworthy in their CSR have positive impact on the whole CSR image and are able to strengthen the CSR standpoint.
ESDN Office: How do you see the relation between CSR on the one hand and sustainable development on the other? Referencing the old CSR communication, many experts said that sustainable development is a societal vision and CSR is business’ contribution to this societal vision. Does the new communication offer a different understanding of the two concepts?
Sue Bird: Sustainable development can indeed refer to policies and societal groups, while CSR is geared primarily towards companies and the private sector. Although CSR is often focused to social responsibilities, both concepts encompass social and environmental factors. Being responsible for CSR in DG Employment, environmental aspects are not so much in the focus of my daily work as social aspects, human rights and labor affairs. Nevertheless, they are important for CSR as well as for sustainable development.
ESDN Office: How do you see the relation between national sustainable development strategies on the one hand and national CSR strategies and action plans on the other?
Sue Bird: In my opinion, national sustainable development strategies and national CSR strategies are complementary to each other. While sustainable development strategies focus on big societal challenges such as climate change, resource scarcity, and environmental protection, CSR contains certain environmental aspects as well, but also highlights social issues of businesses, such as human rights, consumer protection, workplaces issues and so on.
ESDN Office: Does this mean that the Member States developing their own CSR strategies and action plans should sort out what is dealt with in a sustainable development strategy and what is in the CSR action plan? Would you recommend a sort of coherence test between these two kinds of strategies?
Sue Bird: This coherence is indeed desirable. Probably not every Member State will have a well-elaborated process for ensuring the coherence of both strategies, but certain issues may be crosscutting themes. In Poland, sustainable consumption and production plays an important role and is incorporated in both the Polish sustainable development strategy and the Polish CSR strategy. Other Member States have a strong focus on environmental issues and include this vision in both strategies.
ESDN Office: What about governance structures for national CSR strategies action plans. Do you have any recommendations on how they should look?
Sue Bird: The Compendium of Member States Activities on CSR illustrates the broad variety of approaches to CSR. This variety does not necessarily exist in terms of definitions, but in relation to activities and concrete implementation, which often depend of the specific situation in the respective member state. We will implement peer reviews in which the CSR High Level Group will play an important role and which could be supported by independent experts as well. They will allow us to follow up the implementation of the new CSR communication on national level and to improve policy learning among member states. National CSR strategies might also be linked to national sustainable development strategies or national reform programs, since the new CSR Communication refers to the Europe 2020 agenda. Concerning the follow up on this high level of extraction, we are still working on a solution.
ESDN Office: In case a Member State sets up a new strategy or action plan or reviews or even renews its strategy or action plan – is there any kind of guideline for national CSR strategies or action plans that could be used by Member States?
Sue Bird: We will rely on several sorts of policy learning and benchmark processes. We have updated the CSR Compendium, which is one of these benchmarks. DG enterprise and other DGs are involved in a number of national CSR platforms that might also serve as means for policy learning based on benchmarks. But instead of providing a guideline, which might become outdated rather soon, we will rely on the peer review mechanism as a dynamic and learning oriented mechanism. Since we are at an early stage of discussion, I cannot describe in detail how the peer reviews will look. Basically, they will support Member States to learn about each other, and to discuss different options of CSR strategies and their implementation. In case common understandings and shared practice emerge, further work at European level could be set off. Within the peer review, the CSR High Level Group will play an important role, representing EU Member States, their CSR policies, strategies and action plans. The peer reviews could be supported by scientific expertise focusing on certain aspects of CSR policies, similarly as we have contracted out a number of studies during the last years.
ESDN Office: The new communication was published right at the moment when a large portion of European companies and people are looking at the Euro crisis. What do you think, how does the crisis influence CSR activities?
Sue Bird: Although the crisis had effects on CSR, CSR activity hasn’t necessarily gone down. Since the crisis could be seen as a crisis of ethics and a crisis within the economy and society, it is clearly connected to CSR activities. The crisis started off with non-ethical behavior in the financial sector. The discussion touches fields like reputation, image, and trust, which are CSR-relevant as well. In my opinion, many companies and managers have recognized the concerns and learned that being ethical is important. CSR can support this idea and help to get out of this crisis.
ESDN Office: What are the key messages that you want to send to national policy makers who are responsible for CSR strategies and sustainability strategies?
Sue Bird: We very much welcome the chance to work with EU Member States on their CSR policies, and want to build on methods we have achieved during the last years. We would like to move forward in two aspects: first by motivating the Member States to engage more in CSR, and second in the collaboration with and among Member States. Building on what has been achieved, building on the strength of the European Union, remedying weaknesses and such as disparities between the different Member States in terms of CSR policies, that is my message. At the European level, we can make significant contributions to the debate on CSR and sustainable development at the international level, as we have a broad variety of CSR policies and actions at hand all across Europe.
Policy can deal with CSR in different ways. In some countries, CSR is perceived solely as a business agenda, and in other countries, public policies related to CSR focus on informational instruments and raising awareness. Both approaches use rather soft policy instruments. The same orientation but stronger effects have regulations on transparency and disclosure. (e.g. in France, where stock market listed companies have to publish annual CSR reports). They may have rather strong impacts when stakeholders and stockholders base their decisions on CSR criteria. CSR policy instruments can provide even stronger incentives for responsible businesses, e.g. through sustainable public procurement (e.g. in The Netherlands), through financial support or tax reductions (e.g. in some Italian regions) or through steering financial markets and the decisions of public pension funds (e.g. in Sweden). In all of these cases, single CSR policy instruments are applied, but in a rather selective way.
CSR strategies and action plans can be seen as “fourth generation CSR” when countries integrate a broad variety of public CSR policy instruments into CSR strategies and action plans, create coherent policy mixes, and implement governance structures for their implementation and renewal.
National CSR policies, strategies, and action plans strongly depend on the cultural, institutional, and policy context of the respective country. Therefore, the focus and design of the individual CSR policy instruments differ between the different EU Member States, along with the terminology used. In some countries, well-structured strategic documents with a hierarchy of goals and objectives and well-described implementation mechanisms are at hand (“CSR strategies”). In other countries, lists of planned actions without a well-elaborated governance structure are published (“CSR action plans”). Both are in the focus of this Quarterly Report. In other cases, only single CSR policy instruments are implemented, or CSR supporting frameworks were developed to give an orientation to what should be understood by CSR. These cases were not analysed in detail, but are mentioned in the following country profiles.
In our analysis we made use of three different key elements: Objectives, policy instruments, and governance structures.
Objectives refer to one or more main goals supported by sub-goals - these goals may be stated either explicitly or implicitly.
Policy instruments are important to support and foster economic, environmental, and social activities of companies. The variety of policy instruments is enormous; hence, seven categories were used in this analysis:
Governance arrangements or governance structures define how policy-making is structured for certain policies on the political-administrative and stakeholder level. In the context of sustainable development, certain pre-requisites are given as it is a normative concept (e.g. horizontal or cross-sectoral cooperation, participation). For this analysis, we use five categories that are also related to “good governance”.
The variety of documents requires a structured approach of differentiation between strategies and action plans or other CSR supporting frameworks. Very pragmatically, the primary source for the differentiation is the title of the document. As a second way to differentiate, the content determines whether it is a strategy, an action plan or another CSR supporting framework. Strategies describe a clear overall goal and some other objectives and are long-term. Action plans consist of different actions which are coordinated and have one objective per goal. CSR supporting frameworks were developed to give an orientation to what should be understood by CSR.
In preparing this Quarterly report we analysed several documents and websites for gathering background information, such as “Corporate Social Responsibility. National Public Policies in the European Union” (Knopf, Kahlenborn et al. 2011), CSR Europe, Corporate Sustainability Reporting and “Towards greater corporate responsibility – conclusions of EU-funded research”. One very important source for this QR was the documentation of the CSR day in Austria and the very helpful and detailed information presented by respACT. Furthermore, we collected CSR strategies and action plans by first investigating governmental Websites, secondly by contacting via email national contact points, and finally by approaching representatives of responsible institutions in all EU Member States.
The presented results are based on information published by official governmental authorities, either stated on their official websites or linked to other institutions authorized by the government as contact point for CSR. In case no English version was available, we investigated the basic information and translated it ourselves. A translation would be far beyond the scope of this QR; hence, the in-depth analysis is done exclusively for countries that have officially published English versions or translations. The analysis is mainly based on the provided documents. Additional information gained from national contact points was added in some cases (e.g. Austria).
In total we analysed 18 main strategy documents (Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, UK), but could only rely on 16 because two of them were not officially approved by the authorities (Hungary, Portugal) and hence not reliable. We also analysed one website (Sweden). Furthermore, we walked through three draft documents (Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia), which were also not approved by public authorities.
In the next chapters we present
The following in-depth analysis of national CSR strategies and action plans can be summarized as follows:
This chapter provides an overview on the situation of CSR strategies and action plans or other national CSR supporting frameworks. First, we start with a table presenting an overview on the current situation. Next, we present the quantitative results concerning publishing authorities, policy instruments, and governance structure. Finally, we investigated which international guidelines and principles are predominantly mentioned in the documents.
Table 2: CSR approaches in different countries
The table shows how national CSR policies are implemented. Six European countries implemented a national CSR strategy (including Hungary). Six countries integrated their CSR strategy and action plan into other national strategies, and three of them integrated it into the national sustainable development strategy. Four countries pursue other approaches, such as national CSR supporting frameworks or other partnerships.
Table 3: Responsible bodies or authorities
In terms of responsible bodies or authorities, in six countries the Government Office (respectively, the Prime Minister) adopted the national CSR strategy and action plan or a CSR supporting framework. In France, the government office and a line ministry are the responsible bodies. In Cyprus, the planning bureau is responsible for the CSR supporting framework and the further development of a national CSR strategy and action plan. Interestingly, the assignment, in terms of the topic of the ministries, is commonly under social affairs (including employment).
We investigated which policy instruments are used in different countries. We only list instruments found. Interestingly, some instruments are mentioned very prominently, such as informational instruments.
Table 4: Policy Instruments found in national CSR strategies and action plans or CSR supporting frameworks
We investigated policy instruments at different levels. In this table, we state whether policy instruments are present or not, and only in countries that have at least a statement paper in place (not for countries which only have policies). Information based instruments are predominating, whereas hybrid instruments are not presented that much.
Governance structures, presented in national CSR strategies and action plans or CSR supporting frameworks
As presented in the table, in terms of governance structure horizontal and vertical integration are pictured in the documents quite clearly. To our impression, this indicates that CSR policies are well co-ordinated with other policy areas, and are looking for their “niche” among sustainable development policies. The rather low number of documents explicitly referring to participation and stakeholder management as implementation tools was rather unexpected, as both are in the core of CSR on the corporate level, and are also key elements of sustainable development policies. The even lower number of CSR policies and action plans containing indicators and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms raises the impression that these documents are not yet full-fledged strategies, and did not make substantial use of the long-term experiences in implementing sustainable development strategies.
In this chapter of the QR we present the current situation of EU Member States. At the beginning, we present the countries that have documents of their national CSR strategies and action plans. Secondly, we describe other approaches to adopt public CSR policies, either by integration it into national strategies (such as national sustainable development strategy) or by providing documents, websites or partnerships. Some countries are just developing national CSR strategies. Finally, we present how countries without documents or websites in place approach CSR.
The presented results are based on information published by official governmental authorities, either stated on their official websites or linked to other institutions authorized by the government as contact point for CSR. In case no English version was available, we investigated the basic information and translated it ourselves. A translation would be far beyond the scope of this QR; hence, the in-depth analysis is done exclusively for countries that have officially published English versions or translations.
In this chapter, we describe the different approaches in terms of basic information (title, issuing date, link to the investigated document, link to other version of the document, Website with further information, responsible institution, running time). In terms of policy instruments and governance structures, we applied the presented categories.
In this online version of the quarterly report, we provide a clickable map linking to the countries we investigated
Belgium has two complementary documents in place. First, an action plan, (a) which is available in Dutch and French only, published in 2006, and second, a reference framework (b) targeting companies in their approach to CSR, published earlier in 2006. Clearly, we are directing our attention toward the action plan, but will present the framework as well.
(a) Action Plan
In the Belgium action plan published in 2006, objectives, the development process, an overview on existing governmental actions concerning CSR (listed in the appendix), stakeholder perspectives, and further actions and initiatives to promote CSR are presented. In addition, the vertical and horizontal integration of the action plan into the government structure is described. The main objective and three sub-goals are defined, and the way to reach these goals by actions is presented.
The Action Plan was developed in five phases. On one hand, existing governmental actions in the context of CSR were collected and a categorisation scheme was developed (phase 1 and 2). On the other hand, stakeholder involvement, by identifying and addressing stakeholders (phase 3) and a two-day CSR Forum (phase 4), were the main tasks. Based on the results of these four steps, the actions were developed in the next phase. The working group on corporate social responsibility of the Interdepartmental Commission on Sustainable Development (ICSD) was involved in this development. A categorization scheme - based on the three pillars of CSR (economic, environmental, and social) and several contextual factors - was developed and used for the selection of the stakeholders that were involved in the development, especially during the two-day CSR forum in 2005. SMEs and social enterprises are special target groups particularly mentioned in the action plan.
Finally, two different types of actions were identified: pure governmental related (sustainable public procurement, supporting foreign trade and investment, public socially responsible investment, contact point for public labels, international CSR policies) and stakeholder involvement (support for learning networks, support for ethical trade in Belgium, continuing the dialogue with stakeholders, sustainability reports, establishment of a joint research program on CSR, cooperation on dissemination of knowledge, sustainable pension funds, evaluation and expansion of transparency principles) actions. The actions are described by their context, action, target group, responsibility, schedule, and budget (see example below). Generally, the implementation of actions is framed on a five-year period. All actions foster the participation of different authorities, which are mentioned. As an example, we present one of the five actions which are seen as governmental-only:
The working group creates reports about the activities and the progress made on a yearly basis. All reports are available in French and Dutch at the Homepage of the ICDS (http://www.cidd.be/FR/publications/rapports_annuels). The current one presents activities in 2010 (Rapport Annuel 2010, available in December 2011) and includes an update of the action plan in the appendix.
The reference framework is part of the realization of actions defined in the Federal Plan for Sustainable Development. It was developed by the ICSD and adopted by the Council of Ministers and the Federal Government in 2006. We present it here in detail, because it serves as a very powerful hybrid instrument.
In this strategy, the government presents its vision and objectives for promoting CSR with focus on businesses and the way to implement principles of sustainable development. A working group, consisting of experts, representatives of governmental institutions, business, social partners, NGOs, and international organizations, developed the strategy. The strategy document starts with an analysis of the situation and a conceptual explanation of CSR, including some definitions (CSR, Stakeholders, Social Responsibility, social responsible behaviour, social reporting, and so on), followed by an overview on existing national and international documents, and an analysis of the context. The second part presents vision, objectives, and principles of CSR. Next, the implementation of the strategy is described. The document integrates sectoral policies and measurements to ensure their realization.
Some challenges for implementation are mentioned. Due to the heterogenic landscape in terms of regulations, definitions and responsibilities in Bulgaria, the implementation of CSR will be a complex issue. Before the strategy was developed, CSR as such was not included in laws. Nevertheless, several laws closely related to CSR (especially to the social perspective or the relationship to sustainable development) were already existing. These existing instruments and policies have been integrated into the strategy. Another key challenge for implementation is to strengthen confidence in times of crises. The active role of the government includes the commitment to create favourable conditions for business to implement CSR. Monitoring and evaluation mechanisms concerning implementation are mentioned, and a budget is roughly presented. The strategy promotes five objectives and provides actions to achieve these objectives. The implementation process and the plans for the next five years are presented in the document. The implementation of the strategy will be processed in three steps: 2009 - 2010, 2011 - 2012 and 2013. On the Website, yearly plans concerning CSR can be found. The most recent plan includes 2011 and 2012. 3
In November 2011, the government of Bulgaria provided the “National Reform Program 2010 – 2013” with the objective to implement the EU 2020 Strategy. In this program, “promoting the introduction of corporate social responsibility practices at company’s / branches level” (p. 35) is connected to actions reducing undeclared work, but no more emphasis on the topic can be found in the national reform program.
We investigated the Danish action plan in detail due to several reasons. Find the analysis in chapter Denmark: an example of a well-focused national action plan.
Germany is one example of a national CSR strategy, which we investigated in detail (see chapter Germany: an example of a comprehensive strategy).
In 2006, the government published a degree on CSR (“A Kormány 1025/2006”) to stimulate measures of companies in CSR, especially targeting “social responsible employers”. In 2006, the Economic and Social Council was instructed by the Government to develop recommendations concerning Social Responsibility. In a Working Committee the recommendations were built based on the European Union priorities on CSR. The recommendations were finished 2007 and presented to the Government. The Recommendations on one hand offer guidelines for companies, but on the other hand include government and local governments, and civil society as key actors of the economy.
In the recommendations several actions targeting different topics are presented. These topics include stakeholder involvement, governance, strategy, performance management, publication and authentication. The recommendations first present an overview on CSR and the current situation of CSR in Hungary. The goal is “to create a publicly aware society, to promote the nation’s cultural, artistic and academic endeavours, and to ensure responsible behaviour and competition” (p. 14). To reach this goal, actions along the topics are presented for companies, the state and local governments, the civil society and media. Media of course is part of the companies’ actions, but addressed specifically in stakeholder involvement, strategy, publication and authentication.
The approach of the Hungarian government to support CSR was supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) carried out the project “Accelerating CSR practices in the new EU member states and candidate countries as a vehicle for harmonisation, competitiveness and social cohesion in the EU” for the European Commission and lead to recommendations concerning CSR5. In the national sustainable development plan, published in 2009, principles of social responsibility are also mentioned: “Businesses’ social responsibility must be strengthened, along with cooperation between the private and the public sector” to enable sustainable development (p. 5).
The governmental vision on CSR begins by discussing the importance of CSR and defining the concept. After this, the situation in the Netherlands is described. In the next part, the “inspiring, innovating, integrating” elements of CSR are presented, and actions are elaborated. The document states at the end what the governmental role is. We present this approach in detail in the chapter “The Netherlands: an ambitious vision”.
Finland has a long tradition in fostering CSR. Although no national CSR strategy and action plan exists, the “Signpost of responsibility for enterprises”, issued by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy (TEM), presents how companies should act in order to fulfil their responsibilities. The document itself refers to governmental bodies engaged in CSR such as Ministry of the Environment, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Prime Minister’s Office, and various non-governmental Finnish organisations such as FiBS (Finnish Business & Society) and Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility. Several documents are presented on the Website concerning the topic of CSR. The prominence of international guidelines and principles demonstrates how Finland approaches the topic.
In the National Sustainable Development Strategy, CSR is also mentioned: “Corporate Social Responsibility will be emphasised, because the raw materials used by Finnish industry and the consumer goods utilised in Finland increasingly come from other countries, and our products are consumed in other countries.” (p. 20). The Ministry of the Environment started several initiatives e.g. “Enhancing corporate social responsibility in the Finnish food chain with a stakeholder dialogue”. Overall, Finland has many regulations (Companies Act, Social Security Legislation ...) which target CSR issues without mentioning the concept explicitly and encourage companies to disseminate figures on CSR-related tasks.
In December 2008, a Government Decree was published to form a Committee on CSR. As an advisory board, the committee works under the Ministry of Employment and the Economy to strengthen the national and international CSR of Finland. It should promote measures, evaluate companies, and promote information and proactive assessment of societal changes in the context of CSR. With the “Corporate responsibility in the SME sector” the ministry of employment and the economy published best cases from the SME sector to illustrate responsible actions of companies. On the Website, the ministry states that “sound and open governance in enterprises promotes their responsibility” and provides a link to the Finnish Corporate Governance Code.
Based on "Le Grenelle Environnement", France basically includes CSR into the National Sustainable Development Strategy. Several actions concerning “Encouraging business to commit to an advanced social responsibility approach” are mentioned, such as promotion of CSR by applying EMAS, reporting, development of ecolabels, and encouraging voluntary business initiatives. Stakeholders in terms of civilian and public service representatives participated together in the discussion and the development of the strategy and action plan.
In a background paper (La responsabilité sociétale des entreprises ou RSE), published in November 2011, the “Commissariat General au Développement durable“ (Interministerial Committee for Sustainable Development) explains how CSR is connected to sustainable development. Furthermore it describes the impact of existing policies on CSR. CSR is seen as a voluntary approach that targets social and environmental issues and integrates them into daily business of companies. CSR is beneficial for companies because it strengthens the brand and image and opens the way to green growth. CSR plays an important role for SMEs and huge companies. Huge companies are obliged to disseminate information concerning social and environmental issues in an appropriate form annually. This idea will be further developed in 2012 and supported by a new decree. The government commits to support companies in their approach. Besides this, a framework for the promotion of CSR labels may be developed.
Ireland has different ways to approach CSR. In the national sustainable development strategy 1997 – 2002, CSR was already one of the topics discussed for achieving more sustainable production and consumption. In the document “Making Ireland’s Development Sustainable – Review, Assessment and Future Action”, CSR is seen as being consistent with greater eco-efficiency. Special emphasis is put on producer responsibility initiatives, which include waste management and cleaner production. This is coherent with the current draft version “A Framework for Sustainable Development for Ireland“, presented in December 2011, where producer responsibility is one topic.
Other ways to approach CSR are either sectoral or driven by specific public authorities. On one hand a “Credit Institution (Financial support) Scheme 2008” exists. It was published as a statutory instrument and asks financial institutions to follow disclosure. These guidelines state “Each covered institution shall procure that the Irish Banking Federation, on behalf of all covered institutions, submits a bi-annual report to the Minister on goals and targets laid down by the Minister in relation to Corporate Social Responsibility, including the goals and targets with respect to the objectives of this Scheme, the delivery of the national payments strategy, the promotion of financial inclusion, the development of financial education and the implementation of the next phase of the Government’s Social Finance Initiative” (p. 12). Furthermore, it requests “Promotion of the highest standards of corporate social responsibility in the banking system overall.” (p. 19).
The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government states “While the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation enjoys lead responsibility for co-ordinating policy in relation to CSR, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government contributes to the development of CSR in a community and local development context through a range of supports and structures such as partnerships, community development projects and Leader groups”. The Department offers funding to Chambers Ireland, a business network engaged in CSR, to support the Corporate Social Responsibility Awards.
The Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure published the ministerial portal for sustainable development and the national sustainable development plan in May 2011. According to these, the government will support projects that intend to implement good CSR practices in companies. This should be realised by developing a sustainable behaviour codex for companies, integrating CSR criteria into governmental labels, financially supporting consultancy, fostering non-financial disclosure, and monitoring the compliance of laws and voluntary measures.
CSR and socially responsible behaviour is also a way to overcome problems of the employment of older workers. This will be supported not only by companies, but also by government and labour unions in supporting life-long learning. The Ministry of Transport and Labour published a Communication on CSR (2006) to emphasise the importance of CSR. According to this, the status of CSR in Luxembourg must be investigated, especially to discover the main actors, the current situation, and which approaches may be applicable for enterprises in Luxembourg. Since then, the situation was analysed.
An umbrella document called “Corporate Social Responsibility in Poland” concerning the role of CSR in the National Reform Program describes several tasks, documents, and initiatives. In fact, CSR in Poland is part of the National Reform Program, published in 2011 in accordance to Europe 2020, where CSR is mentioned as one task. The National Reform Program mentions the creation of CSR networks.
Although the Compendium mentions Portugal having published a “Support Program for the Development of Social Economy” in March 2008 (Knopf, Kahlenborn et al. 2011, p. 14), the document was not accessible for the ESDN Office while running this investigation and no further developments were reported. In the Programme of the XIX constitutional Government: Government plan 2011, social responsibility is mentioned in terms of activities in the field of labour and employment for disadvantaged groups, partnerships between pharmacies and local authorities, but not in terms of CSR as business obligation. More often, the term “responsible producer” is used to target the production sector directly. In the ”Programa do XVIII Governo Constitucional 2009 - 2013“ it is stated that it is important to continue the dialogue between all stakeholders concerning CSR.
The current CSR policy in Spain relies on several different documents; the most recent one is the Sustainable Economy Law, published in 2011. All these documents build together a CSR supporting framework in Spain:
Instead of having one document in place, the Swedish way to promote CSR is a partnership, relying on EU and UN guidelines and principles. Detailed information for companies and individuals interested in CSR is presented on a Website.
Besides this, the government published many statements and guidelines concerning CSR. In 2005, the government offices of Sweden published a document called “What do we know about Corporate Social Responsibility?”. It is a kind of summary on the activities of Globalt Ansvar, and it outlines the situation in Sweden. It describes actors, rules, business, and many other topics based on research results.
In 2004, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs investigated CSR in the context of the supply chain. In 2005, they published a study concerning “CSR and the Business of Law”. The Website of the partnership for global responsibility (Globalt Ansvar) consists of links to international guidelines (e.g. Global Compact), but also presents other topic areas on the pages. Content includes human rights, labour law, environment, anti-corruption measures, internet freedom, and cooperation.
Since the government is always striving to be a role model, several guidelines directly target state-owned companies. In the “guidelines for external reporting by state-owned companies” reporting requirements are presented in detail, and support the idea of publishing ethical principles, code of conduct, sustainability issues and so on. This idea of the state as role model extends past CSR related issues (see e.g. Annual report of State-owned companies 2008”).
In the United Kingdom, CSR has a long tradition. A ministry of CSR was even implemented in 2002, but since 2006 its concerns are integrated into several other ministries. The former Minister presented the statement paper “Corporate Social Responsibility - A Government update”. As a further development, the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform published a new report in 2008, which describes the situation and the approach of the government concerning CSR.
It starts by describing how CSR is seen: “Specifically, we see Corporate Responsibility – which was previously described as Corporate Social Responsibility – as the voluntary actions that business can take, over and above compliance with minimum legal requirements, to address both its own competitive interests and the interests of wider society”. The government supports this idea by creating a policy framework which is able to support wider responsible behaviour. To encourage business in adopting CSR, the business case for CR is presented by stressing the positive impacts of CR on the companies’ competitiveness. The government commits to develop a policy framework, support awareness, and supports businesses in their efforts to act responsibly. Preconditions for the development of CSR were already set in the Companies Act 2006.
Next, “Shaping a new environment for Corporate Responsibility” describes what was done in the last years to support Corporate Responsibility. After this, CSR in the context of the government is presented. This includes several action fields, such as poverty reduction actions, providing support to business, promoting Corporate Responsibility internationally, CR tackling disadvantage at home, CR in the workplace, environmental and volunteering issues as well as social enterprises. Finally, “Corporate Responsibility Values in Government” shows what the government has done to implement Corporate Responsibility. At the end, links are presented such as links to Business in the Community (BITC), an organisation of UK’s top companies engaging in corporate responsibility or the Cabinet Office.
In this part, we present countries that have stated that they are developing a national CSR strategy and action plan. In these countries, either an established set of policies exist (e.g. Austria) or they must start from scratch (e.g. Cyprus). We describe these countries based on the intentions they published, present institutions involved, timeframe, and Websites. Most countries provide a definition of how CSR is currently understood on the national level. The special case of new EU Member States, which participate in several EU or UN supporting schemes to develop national CSR policies, is presented in the next chapter.
The development process started in September 2011, and was officially announced at the CSR Day Austria on Sept 29th 2011. The Action Plan will be finalized and published in summer 2012.
Three Ministries are jointly steering the development process (this is an outstanding example of inter-ministerial co-ordination in the development of a CSR action plan):
A broad stakeholder dialogue is scheduled for spring 2012 in which NGOs and companies will be involved as well as ministries, business associations, and labour unions.
The content of the Austrian CSR action plan will follow the core elements of the new CSR communication of the European Commission as well as the three best practice cases of Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands. It will focus on the international context of CSR, education for CSR, quality control of CSR and the role of public authorities and the administration in CSR (e.g. through public procurement, socially responsible investment and public companies). It will encompass a reporting and reviewing mechanism so that the action plan will have the key characteristics of a learning strategy.
The Austrian CSR action plan will refer to several other Austrian documents which are of relevance for CSR:
Austria’s Provinces can refer to 20 years of experience in implementing consulting programs for corporate sustainability issues, in which CSR has played a more and more important role during the last years. By now, more than 2000 companies participated in one of the programs, implemented more than 5000 measures, and received a broad variety of knowledge and (partly financial) support. Some of these programs (e.g. EcoProfit, EcoBusinessPlan Vienna) have already been successfully transferred to other European countries and beyond (Martinuzzi/Windsperger 2011)
In the National Reform Plan, published in May 2011, the planning bureau states that “Promoting CSR is among the priorities of the Planning Bureau as the National Coordinator for CSR. Promoted actives will comprise two priority sectors: (A) Promoting CSR as part of business’ sustainable development and, (B) Socially responsible actions by the Government“. Further, there are plans to perform informational campaigns with all social partners in order to encourage accountability and provide information in the annual reports of companies. According to the Progress Report 2009, the policy priority is to encourage companies in developing their Corporate Social Responsibility. “Various steps are being made in the context of the promotion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in an effort to encourage the business sector to undertake more actions towards achieving the targets on climate change, improving the working conditions of employees, providing high quality work and increasing trust among consumers.“
In the Strategic Development Plan 2007 - 2013 published in 2007, CSR is mentioned in terms of „Encouraging Involvement of the Voluntary Sector and Local Authorities“ – Introducing cooperative programs between volunteers and businesses to increase the social contribution of the business sector in the context of the EU directive for Corporate Social Responsibility“ (p. 86). The role of companies is to assume their responsibilities for future generations.
The Government of Malta presents several national policies which are closely related to CSR (sustainable development, social development, environmental development) but do not name CSR as such. In the national sustainable development strategy, a campaign to foster corporate social responsibility is mentioned because CSR may be a way to support fair competition legislation. Hence, promoting a culture of corporate social responsibility in major firms is one of several strategic points in regard to reliance on market forces and fair trade.
In the Draft National Environment Policy published in 2011 by the Office of the Prime Minister - Tourism and Sustainable Development Unit, CSR could be helpful in the transition to a green economy in being the business contribution to this transition. The private sector is encouraged to engage further in environmental management, which could be realized through greater CSR measures. Companies should improve their environmental performance and publish CSR reports. One action in the NEP is to encourage companies quoted on stock exchange to have CSR policy:
The Chamber for Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, in cooperation with the Bank of Valletta, started a project to evaluate and promote CSR, which is still running.
The EU and UNDP created some supporting schemes to foster CSR activities in new EU Member States. “The EU Commission (Directorate-General for Employment and Social Affairs) is supporting the United Nations Development Programme in a project called ‘Acceleration CSR in new Europe’, which will enable the measuring and monitoring of CSR performance in Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia”
The most prominent schemes are:
The current status of these countries is presented here in brief (excluding Bulgaria and Hungary, which were already presented).
Although, several recently published national strategies exist (National Reform Program Estonia 2020, Estonian Strategy for Competitiveness 2009 - 2011) due date, Estonia has not adopted a CSR strategy and action plan. Nevertheless, several initiatives on form NGOs are recognizable. The Estonian Business Forum for example presents an initiative to create a national CSR platform in Estonia and provides information for business. A toolkit to foster CSR in local business is available, too.
An Action Plan for the Implementation of the National Programme for the Development of Corporate Social Responsibility 2009 - 2011 exists. This action plan proposes the creation of legal and institutional requirement for the development of CSR, promote better awareness of CSR and raise social and environmental consciousness, and strengthening the competence of enterprises and other interest groups in the field of CSR within the period of 2009 – 2011. This action plan was not officially approved.
In a resolution the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic “Resolution concerning the promotion of sustainable enterprises” mentions CSR as a beyond legal compliance concept on voluntary base. Sustainable enterprises are encouraged to apply CSR and governments are fostered to support it. A non-official document called “The strategy for corporate social responsibility support in the Slovak republic for 2008 – 2018”. Since the genuineness was not approved by public authorities, we did not investigate this document.
Some EU Member States have not published a national CSR approach. This does not necessarily mean that these governments ignore CSR, but they have not adopted a strategy and action plan so far. For each country we provide general information and a short description to complete the picture.
In the Czech Republic, CSR is targeted from different sides. For example, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs states “In the area of labour law and social affairs concerning relationships between employees and employers, the principle of corporate social responsibility is asserted e.g. through the institute of collective bargaining, mainly thanks to the existence of enterprise-level collective agreements and higher-level collective agreements (http://www.mpsv.cz/cs/3619 ), that enable certain obligations to be agreed voluntarily above the statute-given minimum and further thanks to the institute of extension of binding force of higher-level collective agreements (http://www.mpsv.cz/cs/1505; http://www.mpsv.cz/cs/3856).”
Ethical and labour issues, regulations and subsidies exist, which are in context with CSR, but are not mentioned as such. In principle, several regulations exist targeting towards environmental protection and the role business plays in this context.
The Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs states that CSR is the obligation of companies in terms of social action. Companies are in favour to assume responsibility for their environmental impacts and consequences arising from their business activities. The role of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is to promote, initiate, and inform on CSR activities, to support cooperation with regions and local authorities, and to participate in international issues, particularly in issues of the EU. The Ministry is involved in the adoption of the ISO 26000 in Italy. Cooperation between Italian regions and Autonomous provinces serves as possibility to exchange best practice in CSR.
In 2004, the Ministry for Labour and Social Politics established the Multistakeholder CSR Forum Italy (Forum Italiano Multi-Stakeholder per la Corporate Social Responsibility). The Ministry also states that it will undertake action to promote, inform and support CSR activities. The national contact point for CSR is the “Punto di Contatto Nationale”, further information is also supported by “ICSR Italian Centre for Social Responsibility”.
The Saeima of the Republic published the Sustainable Development Strategy of Latvia until 2030 in June 2030. CSR as such is not mentioned in the strategy, neither in the in the “Declaration of the Intended Activities of the Cabinet of Ministers”. Nevertheless some key topics are presented such as employment or eco-investment. In the “Latvia’s Sustainable Development Strategy 2030 Background Review” social responsibility is mentioned as “Both civil society and business should cooperate in promoting the practices of a sustainable lifestyle”.
CSR is not a big issue for the Rumanian Government. Nevertheless, in the Strategic National Report Regarding Social Protection and Social Inclusion (2009 – 2010) raising awareness for social responsibilities of trading companies is mentioned.
Slovenia created a working group for the promotion of CSR in 2005. Since then, CSR was included in several governmental documents. These documents mostly target labour issues, such as “Analysis - the national Programme Safety and health at work”, published by the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs in 2007. In this paper, CSR is seen as an important business contribution to the topic, due to the fact that responsible behaviour includes respect of workers and their safety and health. In the Social Agreement 2007 – 2009 (2007 – 2009) signed by the government and social partners, CSR is defined as voluntarily integration social and environmental concerns in business activities, and is an instrument which will maintain the balance between the three pillars of the Lisbon Strategy. The government will promote CSR by raising awareness, promoting best practices in companies, participating in the development of standards, reporting on measures to promote CSR, developing a system of annual reporting, and including this into the procurement criterion. Several other documents mention the role of CSR, and NGOs play an important role too.
In addition to EU Member States, we investigated three non-EU Member States: Canada, Norway, and Switzerland. We have chosen these three countries for several reasons. The European countries in this section are meant to complete the European picture of CSR. An analysis of these countries shows how close they are to the EU. The country outside Europe (Canada) is one example of a country with a national CSR strategy and action plan in place that targets one sector, and therefore presents a very different way of seeing CSR.
Norway has chosen another way to promote CSR. The White Paper is on one hand an opportunity to raise awareness; on the other hand it offers guidance and measures between the stakeholders. The document is dedicated to Norwegian companies engaging abroad, and it details how the government sees CSR and can support such companies. It defines the role and responsibilities of the authorities, the role of the private sector, and CSR in a development perspective. Furthermore, it presents the evaluation of legal instruments and instruments strengthening CSR. Finally, it looks at administrative and economic consequences of CSR. As in Sweden, the Norwegian approach directly addresses the role model function of state-owned companies: “State-owned enterprises must lead the way in exercising social responsibility”.
In the National Sustainable Development Strategy, companies are asked to act responsibly. They are able to support sustainable development by integrating sustainable action into their daily business. Companies can follow several standards and regulations concerning environmental management systems or social responsibility.
Besides the NSDS, SECO (State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO) and other public bodies (FEON Federal Office for the Environment, SDC – Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs) have their own CSR approaches. The CSR Concept of SECO was published in 2009 and presents CSR as an important way to support sustainable development. The objective of SECO, in this context, is to foster the support of CSR in and outside of the country in order to demonstrate that the state plays a complementary role in the field of CSR. The implications given by the national sustainable development strategy on CSR are presented. SECO wants to contribute to the development of CSR policies in Switzerland.
Besides listing the status of EU Member States and some examples from non-EU Member States, we present three countries in depth and examine why they are outstanding and could, therefore, become role models for other countries that are about to/plan to develop their own national CSR strategy and action plan. We selected these three examples based on different criteria. Firstly, we wanted to present three very different approaches: The Netherlands, having an ambitious vision, Denmark having a well-focused action plan and Germany relying on a comprehensive strategy. Secondly, all three presented examples very clearly state their objectives and actions to achieve them. Thirdly, these examples were published between 2007 and 2010 and hence somehow portray the changing situation in Europe. Countries developing or refining a strategy and action plan can benefit from the variety and are able to choose the appropriate measure from different approaches.
In the “Government Vision on Corporate Social Responsibility 2008 – 2011 - Inspiring, innovating, integrating” published in December 2007, the main objective is to affect the behaviour of entrepreneurs and to influence the overall attitude towards CSR (pp. 9-10).
In other words, the Dutch government wants all companies to become aware of the societal effects and responsibilities that accompany entrepreneurship, and the opportunities that CSR offers, and it wants companies to make an actual effort to integrate CSR into their core activities (p. 10). This main objective will be achieved through 7 ambitions7, which are intended to convey CSR policy and make it transparent (p. 10):
The Netherlands’ 7 ambitions
One very interesting detail is the fact that The Netherlands set the target to have 100% of national government procurement be sustainable no later than 2010 (p. 24).
Published in May 2008 with the title “Action Plan for Corporate Social Responsibility”, the Danish experience gives us a genuine example of a well-structured and particularly well-focused action plan on CSR. With this attempt, the Danish government strives to give businesses the optimum framework within which to conduct their social responsibility work – in both Denmark and the global markets (p.3).
The idea behind the whole action plan is that of ‘business-driven social responsibility’, which suggests that a business should strive to combine responsibility and its core business (p.6). In other words, business-driven social responsibility is when a business actively utilises its expertise and core competences for the benefit of both the business and society, so that social responsibility is integrated throughout the business organisation. In this way, the business helps solve social problems while also opening new growth opportunities for the business itself (p.16).
As stated in its document, the Danish government wants to promote social responsibility and help Danish businesses reap more benefits from being at the global vanguard of corporate social responsibility (p.3), and therefore has the goal of making Denmark and Danish businesses internationally renowned for responsible growth (p.3). The message is very clear: Danish businesses must actively take on global challenges by integrating social and environmental considerations into their business strategies (p.7).
The action plan is described by a series of 30 initiatives that are allocated to four key action areas:
In the following table we summarised those initiatives to offer the overall picture of the action plan.
Denmark’s 30 initiatives
Summary of Policy Instruments
The policy instruments incorporated in the national CSR strategy are kind of balanced. As well economic instruments, information based instruments, voluntary instruments and networks are implemented.
Summary of Governance structures
Denmark on one hand set up a council, which is part of the horizontal integration. On the other hand, evaluation is an important point in the approach.
The German CSR strategy represents a very interesting example of a general strategy on CSR among the EU Member States. Another intention is to provide a framework for CSR actions of German companies. “The National CSR Strategy now has the task of developing a framework that focuses on allowing market forces to develop and, at the same time, seeks to square freedom of action with the active assumption of responsibility. This is intended to support the economically-stable, socially-equitable and environmentally-compatible development of business.”
Why this strategy makes a ‘best practice’ example:
In terms of objectives, Germany wants to increase the number of enterprises that recognise and use social responsibility to shape their business strategies in accordance with the principle of sustainable development (p. 12). On the one hand, Germany has the will to advance a framework for allowing market forces to develop, on the other hand at the same time seeking to square freedom of action with the active assumption of responsibility (p.7).
The “Action Plan for CSR” encompasses five strategic aims (p. 12):
Each strategic aim is then described by a series of objectives that the German government wants to achieve. Therefore, a number of concrete measures are presented in order to reach the mentioned objectives. The following table offers a summary of the German practice9.
Summary of strategic aims, objectives and concrete measures/actions
Summary of Governance structures
Germany very clearly describes the governance structure in terms of vertical integration, participation in the development of the strategy, and stakeholder involvement.
Summary of Policy Instruments
The policy instruments incorporated in the national CSR strategy are mainly information based, but economic instruments and networks play also an important role.
1 Interdepartmental Commission on Sustainable Development
2 An English version was not available in December 2011. The presented results rely on a self-translated version.
3 Since there is no English version available it would be beyond the scope of this quarterly report to further investigate this strategy.
4 The documents were not available on the governments page
5 The documents were not available on the governments page
6 Source: Website
7 The policy proposals will be developed in more detail within these ambitions. The first three ambitions are familiar aspects of CSR policy; they will be updated and expanded. The following three present new activities. A seventh ambition concerns the CSR behaviour of the government itself.
8 Boosters are represented by those companies that are taking the lead in CSR (front-runners), NGOs, social partners, stakeholders, the financial sector, private funds and the consumers.
9 Please note that the formulation of the strategic aims slightly changes according to the document analysed.
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