Corporate social responsibility: half of Europe’s small and medium-sized enterprises engage in socially beneficial activities, says new Commission report
Half of Europe’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) already engage in socially responsible activities that benefit the local community, such as sponsoring sport, culture, health and welfare, says a new European Commission report published under the "Observatory of European SMEs 2002" (see IP/02/687). This report, the first to give EU-wide comparative data on the social and environmental activities of SMEs, makes an important contribution to a debate that has so far mainly focused on large enterprises. The report’s findings will supplement responses to last year’s Green Paper on CSR and help shape the forthcoming Communication on the subject expected this summer. The findings of the report, based on a survey of over 7,600 small and medium-sized enterprises in 19 European countries, were presented to an audience including national experts, small business organisations, members of EU institutions and other specialists in Brussels on 29 May.
50% of European SMEs are already involved in socially responsible activities. This involvement correlates well with enterprise size, ranging from 48% among micro enterprises (under 10 employees) to 65% and 70% for the small (10-49 employees) and medium-sized categories (50-249) respectively.
Geographically, the share of socially engaged SMEs ranges from 32% in France to 83% in Finland.
Support for sports, cultural and health/welfare activities, which mainly takes the form of donations, either in cash or in kind, or sponsorships, is the most common type of community involvement.
In most cases, SMEs engage in socially responsible activities on an occasional and one-off basis, without relating them to the core business strategy.
While SMEs state mainly ethical motivations for their involvement, three-quarters are also able to identify business benefits derived from these activities. These include improved customer loyalty and better relations with the local community/authorities.
The main barriers to involvement are lack of awareness, followed by time or money constraints.
The proportion of European SMEs currently engaged in addressing their environmental problems beyond compliance with environmental rules is limited. Ethical considerations do not appear to be a relevant driver for the environmental domain.
Also on 29 May, an expert group nominated by national authorities from EU Member States, EEA and EU candidate countries will meet for the first time in order to collect information on best practices in the area of responsible entrepreneurship and SMEs.