The European business community has called for a constructive debate on corporate social responsibility in an open letter to Commission President, Romano Prodi.
In the letter, European business associations UNICE, ERT and CSR propose five principles that should underpin the ongoing stakeholder discussion on CSR:
* CSR should be voluntary and business-driven. An approach advocating a European CSR model based on ‘European values’, with standardised approaches, specific certification procedures or specific reporting requirements does not correspond to the real challenges facing business in a global context. Such an approach would run the risk of damaging the spirit of CSR, hampering the development of practical and innovative solutions, and could prove harmful to the competitiveness of European companies and thus the achievement of the Lisbon goals.
* The concept of CSR cannot be narrowed down to employer-employee relations. It is a multi-disciplinary, horizontal issue, which should not be explored by only two Directorate General at Commission level.
* CSR needs to be seen in a global context, taking into account initiatives by OECD, ILO, the UN Global Compact, and others. There is a need for holistic and flexible approaches.
* A debate focusing on the responsibilities of companies should not overlook the responsibilities of other players such as governments and multilateral organisations in areas such as promotion of democracy and human rights or the provision of technical assistance to non-EU countries in their efforts to achieve economic and social progress.
* It is important to ensure that the business community can play a leading role in the stakeholder debate on CSR.
The open letter to President Prodi also gives a few concrete proposals for the promotion of CSR at EU level:
* fostering exchange of experiences and good practices between companies;
improving analysis and knowledge of the concept of CSR;
* encouraging incorporation of CSR in the training of future managers