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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 29 April 2014

EU Corporate Social Responsibility policy: The Commission seeks stakeholders’ views on achievements and future challenges

The Commission is seeking stakeholders’ views about the impact of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy over the past three years and on the role it should play in the future. The Commission's 2011-14 CSR Strategy set an ambitious agenda to strengthen its implementation at international level and created a number of models on how to practically implement its principles (MEMO/11/730). More and more CSR is becoming a valuable tool to improve a company's competitiveness: encouraging social and environmental responsibility in the corporate sector can also bring benefits in terms of cost reductions, access to capital, improved customer relationships, human resource management and innovation capacity. Amongst others, the consultation that the Commission is launching asks for concrete feedback on how successful the Commission’s actions have been in enhancing market reward for CSR, further integrating CSR in education, training and research and better aligning European and global approaches to CSR avoiding red tape in particular for SMEs. An on-line questionnaire was launched today and will be open for contributions until 15 August.

European Commissioner Michel Barnier, Acting Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: "CSR is not just about protecting stakeholders or the value of an enterprise through compliance with ethical or other standards. It is also, and increasingly, about creating new value through the innovation that comes from challenging a company’s status quo and looking for better solutions. We look forward to receiving stakeholders’ valuable feedback on our CSR agenda and on their expectations for the future.”

To the consultation:

http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/sustainable-business/corporate-social-responsibility/public-consultation/index_en.htm.

Identifying the achievements, shortcomings and future challenges in EU CSR policy

At the end of 2014, the Commission’s current policy on Corporate Social Responsibility will phase out. The 2011 CSR Communication was an important milestone. Not only did it provided a modernised definition of CSR as the “responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society”, but it further set out the expectation that companies should have a process to integrate social, environmental, ethical, human rights and consumer concerns into their business operations and core strategy in close cooperation with their stakeholders. Furthermore, it made clear that the development of CSR should be led by enterprises themselves.

The substantive questions of this consultation are divided into three parts:

1. Feedback on the role of the Commission in CSR: The role of the Commission and the identification of the key actors.

2. Feedback on the Commission’s agenda for action: The responses shall indicate to what extent the Commission’s actions were successful and whether policy initiatives have had an important influence on CSR. The eight work streams include:

  • Enhancing the visibility of CSR and disseminating good practices:

  • Improving and tracking levels of trust in business: the Commission published in 2013 a Eurobarometer survey on this matter.

  • Improving self- and co-regulation processes: the Commission launched a Community of Practice platform to work with business and other organisations to develop a code of good practice.

  • Enhancing market reward for CSR: the Commission revised its public procurement Directives to take better account of environmental and social concerns. The Commission also co-sponsored a project on building the capacity of the European investment community to use and integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) information.

  • Improving company disclosure of social and environmental information: the Commission revised the Accounting Directive on the disclosure of non-financial and diversity information by certain large companies and groups. The new rules were recently agreed between the European Parliament and the Council and will enter into force in mid-2016.

  • Further integrating CSR into education, training and research: the Commission sponsored for example a research project on Impact Measurement and Performance Analysis of CSR.

  • Emphasising the importance of national and sub-national CSR policies: the Commission launched a CSR peer review process with EU Member States.

  • Better aligning European and global approaches to CSR:

    • The Commission published a first monitoring report of the commitments of large European enterprises to take account of internationally recognised CSR guidelines and principles.

    • Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: the Commission published guides for SMEs and for enterprises in three sectors.

    • Emphasising CSR in relations with other countries and regions in the world: as an example, CSR features more frequently on the agenda of political dialogues with third countries and trade negotiations (see for example the EU-South Korean Free Trade Agreement, Art. 13.6 (2) and Annex 13 1. (d)).

3. Future issues on CSR: Questions on what stakeholders believe the future role of the Commission in CSR should be, what the main challenges for an EU policy on CSR are and how they would rank the importance of CSR for the future of EU economy.

Background

The Commission will publish a technical report on the results of the consultation after the summer. Further, the Commission will draw on the consultation’s outputs when preparing the plenary meeting of the CSR Multistakeholder Forum, which is scheduled for the end of this year. The Forum is hosted and facilitated by the Commission and gathers relevant stakeholders, including business, trade unions, non-governmental organisations, academia and other organisations, to discuss key topics relating to CSR. This year’s Multistakeholder Forum will be a review meeting to prepare the future direction of the Commission’s CSR policy post-2014.

For more information

Link to CSR website

Link to CSR strategy

Contacts:

Carlo Corazza (+32 2 295 17 52) Twitter: @ECspokesCorazza

Sara Tironi (+32 2 299 04 03)


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