Stakeholders promise to focus on follow-up action to improve CSR knowledge

Source: Euractiv.com, 11 June 2003

The second Round Table of the CSR Multi Stakeholder Forum on CSR knowledge was held on 2-3 June. Stakeholders expressed interest in continuing the forum beyond its current end date of summer 2004, agreed to improve communication and focus on follow-up action.
This second round table meeting, held over two days, focussed on how improvement in CSR knowledge and the exchange of good practice could be achieved. The first Round Table on this subject took place on 12 February 2003.

Each of the four Round Tables (knowledge, SMEs, transparency and development) will meet at least three times throughout the mandate of the CSR EMS Forum. After each wave of Round Tables, a high-level meeting is scheduled to review progress and seek to improve the process.

Issues:
The meeting was opened with the presentation of the results of a recent research into how CSR could be fed into companies’ strategies, management and systems. Following-on from the structure of the first wave of Round Tables, two companies then presented their cooperations with NGOs. Firstly, the representative of paper company UPM Kymmene explained its work with WWF Finland to fight illegal logging and improve their environmental management systems. Spanish telecommunications company Telef√≥nica explained its system of integrating CSR into their practices, which builds on mapping their stakeholders’ interests and setting priorities on their basis.

The second block of discussions centered on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The OECD Guidelines is a voluntary set of principles and standards, adhered to by 37 countries, which focuses on human rights, the disclosure of information, anti-corruption, taxation, labour relations, the environment and consumer protection. The implementation of this corporate responsibility instrument is ensured via so-called National Contact Points, often government officials, which respond to enquiries, assist in solving problems that may arise and gather information on national experiences with the Guidelines. CSR Forum participants felt the Guidelines’ effective implementation mechanism could be linked to other instruments, such as the UN’s Global Compact.

The last section of the discussion dealt firstly with an inititative within the chemicals industry: the Responsible Care programme. Established in 1985, "Responsible Care" is a global initiative launched to prevent accidents, injuries or harm to the environment. It also has both internal and external communication elements, as it encourages public reporting on global health, safety and environmental performance. Companies from 47 countries have so far taken this voluntary commitment. The Ethical Trading Initiative is a UK-based horizontal programme, which focuses on the supply chain based on ILO labour standards. The Initiative identifies and supports good practices, building on peer pressure. The last discussion in this Round Table focussed on the consumer dimension of CSR knowledge. Consumers organisations, the Dutch Consumentbond and European Ethical Consumers, complained that consumers were still lacking information and emphasised the consumers’ right to information concerning the environmental aspects, production methods, labour standards and human rights.

Next steps:

* The next Round Table meeting on 30 June – 1 July will deal with the issue of "Fostering CSR among SMEs".
* Due to the strike in the European Commission on 20 May, the high-level meeting wrapping up the first wave of CSR discussions is to be held on 15 July 2003.
* The Forum is to present a report with its conclusions by summer 2004.