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Corporate Social Responsibility: a new definition, a new agenda for action

The European Commission has published a new policy on corporate social responsibility. By taking steps to better meet their social responsibility, enterprises can help themselves and help society as a whole.

The European Commission’s new strategy on corporate social responsibility (CSR), part of a package of measures on responsible business (see IP/11/1238), aims to help enterprises achieve their full potential in terms of creating wealth, jobs and innovative solutions to the many challenges facing Europe's society. It sets out how enterprises can benefit from CSR as well as contributing to society as a whole by taking greater steps to meet their social responsibility.

What is corporate social responsibility (CSR)?

In its new Communication, the European Commission has put forward a simpler definition of CSR as “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society and outlines what an enterprise should do to meet that responsibility.

Although there is no "one-size-fits-all" and for most small and medium-sized enterprises the CSR process remains informal, complying with legislation and collective agreements negotiated between social partners is the basic requirement for an enterprise to meet its social responsibility.

Beyond that, enterprises should, in the Commission's view, have a process in place to integrate social, environmental, ethical human rights and consumer concerns into their business operations and core strategy in close cooperation with their stakeholders. The aim is:

  • to maximise the creation of shared value, which means to create returns on investment for the company's shareholders at the same time as ensuring benefits for the company's other stakeholders;
  • to identify, prevent and mitigate possible adverse impacts which enterprises may have on society.

Important features of the new definition are:

  • Recognition of the importance of core business strategy. This is consistent with the approach taken by leading enterprises for whom social responsibility and sustainability have become an integral part of the business model. The Commission’s 2008 competitiveness report concluded that CSR is most likely to contribute to the long-term success of the enterprise when it is fully integrated into business strategy.
  • Development of the concept of “creating shared value”. This refers to the way in which enterprises seek to generate a return on investment for their owners and shareholders by means of creating value for other stakeholders and society at large. This links CSR strongly to innovation, especially in terms of developing new products and services that are commercially successful and help to address societal challenges.
  • Explicit recognition of Human rights and ethical considerations in addition to social, environmental and consumer considerations.

See the full info in the EU Press Release

See the full report  in the Home page of the CSR on Europe.

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