A multi-stakeholder, pan-European initiative to create a common understanding of corporate social responsibility, and enhance its credibility and effectiveness in helping to achieve EU economic, social and environmental aims, will be launched in Brussels today. The European Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR EMS Forum), chaired by the European Commission, will bring together enterprises and other stakeholders, including trade unions, NGOs, investors and consumers, to promote innovation, convergence, and transparency in existing CSR practices and tools (such as codes of conduct, labels, reports, and management instruments). The Forum’s mandate (objectives, membership and working methods), will be approved at the launch. CSR EMS Forum round tables will exchange good practices and assess the appropriateness of establishing common guiding principles for CSR practices and instruments. Further high level meetings will take place in 2003 and 2004 to take stock of progress, and findings and conclusions are to be presented to the Commission by mid-2004. The CSR EMS Forum is the centrepiece of the Commission strategy for promoting CSR and sustainable development, as set out in the CSR Communication of July 2002.
Enterprise Commissioner Erkki Liikanen said "the Forum is a vital process, needed to reach consensus on the future of Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe. It is a societal challenge that businesses have an interest in taking on, both to remain competitive and to ensure a positive business contribution to sustainable development. SMEs also have an important role to play in this area, as they constitute the majority of Europe’s businesses".
Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner, Anna Diamantopoulou said: "Corporate Social Responsibility is the business contribution to sustainable development. The purpose of this Forum is to help business and other stakeholders to agree on how to make this contribution effective and verifiable, to the benefit of all, including of business itself."
How will the CSR EMS Forum work?
The CSR EMS Forum will be composed of almost 20 EU-level representative organisations of employers and other business organisations, employees and civil society. The Commission will chair the Forum and other institutions and organisations will have observer status.
CSR EMS Forum work will be prepared by the Co-ordination Committee, a group of representatives of the Commission and of other main stakeholder representative organisations.
Round tables will focus on four specific themes:
improvement of CSR knowledge and facilitation of exchange of experience and good practice
small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) aspects, including how to foster the concept of CSR among SMEs
diversity convergence and transparency of CSR practices and tools
development aspects of CSR.
All round tables will implicitly bear in mind the cross-cutting issues affecting such discussions, such as competitiveness, social cohesion, environmental protection, the consumer dimension, the international dimension, human rights and democratisation and conflict prevention.
The European Council in Lisbon in March 2000 put CSR at the top of the policy agenda when EU heads of state and government called for companies to promote a sense of responsibility, in order to achieve the EU’s strategic goal of becoming the most competitive economy in the world by 2010.
The European Commission’s Strategy on CSR Corporate Social Responsibility: A business contribution to Sustainable Development (COM 2002 347), adopted in July 2002, called for a new social and environment role for business in a global economy and proposed a European Multi-Stakeholder Forum. Special attention was paid to support for CSR in SMEs.
Proposed in the CSR Communication of July 2002, the CSR EMS Forum is the result of a comprehensive consultation process stemming from the Green Paper, which received more than 250 responses during 2001. The conclusions of this public consultation identified the need to improve knowledge about CSR, to encourage convergence and transparency in CSR practices and tools, to promote dialogue and to incorporate this into EU policy making. The work of the Forum also aims to form a basis for dialogue in international fora and with third countries.