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Press release
 

Corporate social responsibility: a new partnership

Employment policy - 13-03-2007 - 12:43
Plenary sessions
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The increase of social and environmental responsibility by business, linked to the principle of corporate accountability, represents an essential element of the European Social Model and of Europe's strategy for Sustainable Development, according to the European Parliament which adopted an own initiative report by Richard Howitt (PES, UK) on Corporate Social Responsibility.

The report underlines that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies should be promoted on their own merits, neither as a substitute for appropriate regulation in relevant fields, nor as a covert approach to introducing such legislation. Agreeing with the Commission of the term, the EP defines CSR as "the voluntary integration of environmental and social considerations into business operations, over and above legal requirements and contractual obligations"  The Commission is called upon to encourage dissemination of good practice resulting from voluntary CSR initiatives and believe that the Commission should also consider establishing a list of criteria for enterprises to respect if they claim to be responsible.
 
MEPs welcome the Commission communication’s objective to link CSR to the economic, social and environmental aims oh the Lisbon Agenda and the trend for lager companies to publish voluntary social and environmental reports in recent years. The Plenary reminds the Commission to bring forward a proposal on the annual accounts of types of companies which includes requirements for social and environmental reporting alongside financial reporting.
 
The EP recalls previous consideration given to the appointment of an EU ombudsman on CSR to undertake independent enquiries on CSR-related issues at the request of companies or any stakeholder group.
 
EU-based translational companies with production facilities in third countries have to abide by core ILO standards, social and environmental agreements to achieve world-wide balance between economic growth and environmental standards, MEPs underline. Parliament wants SME to participate in CSR and suggest that the Commission targets their participation through joint working with intermediary bodies, offering specific support for the participation of cooperative/social economy businesses through their specialist associations.
 
The Parliament recommends that future CSR research goes beyond the simple “business case” for CSR, to focus on the link between competitiveness and sustainable development, at the macro level (the EU and Member States), the meso level (industry sectors and supply chains) and the micro level (SMEs), and the interrelationship between them, as well as the impact of current CSR initiatives and possible violations of CSR principles.
 
Background:
 
CSR represents business taking more direct responsibility for managing its social and environmental impact, becoming more openly accountable not simply to employees and their trade unions, but also to wider 'stakeholders' including investors, consumers, local communities, environmental and other interest groups.
 
The EU response to the CSR debate emanated from the Commission's call to business to for help combat social exclusion in the mid 1990s, the European Parliament resolution of 1999 calling a binding code of conduct to govern EU companies' environmental, labour and human rights compliance worldwide, together with the 2000 call of EU Heads of State for businesses to support CSR as part of the Lisbon Agenda. The Commission Green and White Papers on CSR in the early 2000s put CSR on the agenda for EU institutions, and the setting up of a European Multistakeholder Forum enabled a debate to take place amongst stakeholders.
 
REF.: 20070309IPR03999