European Corporate Sustainability Framework (ECSF) ready

Source: ECSF, 18 June 2004

The European Commission /European Social Fund, an international consortium of academics, consultants and quality experts have developed a new generation management framework, and a set of stakeholder oriented (measurement) tools. This ECSF framework is able to support companies in demonstrating responsible ways of doing business and achieving higher performance levels as sustainable operating organizations. This way ECSF can contribute to European businesses manifesting the European values and sustainable principles in achieving world class corporate performance.
The Dutch members of the consortium where Erasmus University ( Teun Hardjono and Peter de Klein), Vrije Universiteit/IVM (dr. Frans van der Woerd), Triple P Initiative (Timo van den Brink) and Virtu et Fortuna (Marcel van Marrewijk). A group of organizations have supported the project (Unilever, Nashuatech, Rabobank, Granarolo, Coop Adriatica, Nokia, Vedior and Hamburg-Manheimer), both financially as content-wise, through testing and reflecting upon the results.

The European Corporate Sustainability Framework has contributed to the following topics.

1. A clear distinction between corporate sustainability and corporate responsibility

The generic definition of both Corporate Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility (CS-R) is the inclusion of social and environmental concerns into business operations and in interactions with stakeholders. At a more detailed level, Corporate (Social) Responsibility (CR) can be associated with the Communion aspect of people and organizations, i.e. their moral obligation to be accountable for ones impact on the (social) environment, which – in practice – relates to phenomena such as transparency, stakeholder dialogue and sustainability reporting. Corporate Sustainability (CS) is aligned with the Agency principle: the right to be and act according to ones awareness and best understanding of ones situation. In practice, CS focuses on value creation, environmental management, environmental friendly production systems, human capital management and so forth.

2. A practical set of definitions for CS-R, aligned with the various corporate development levels

Individuals and groups develop and apply values and supporting institutional structures, in order to cope with the prevailing challenges. Inappropriate responses provoke new attempts, until new strategies emerge, ultimately resulting in a sequence of development stages. Therefore a one solution fits all definition for CS and CR is abandoned, accepting more specific definitions matching the development-, awareness- and ambition levels of organizations.
· Order: Compliance-driven CS-R:
CS at this level consists of providing welfare to society, within the limits of regulations from the rightful authorities. In addition, organizations might respond to charity and stewardship considerations. The motivation for CS-R is that CS-R is perceived as a duty and obligation, or correct behaviour.
· Success: Profit-driven CS-R:
CS-R at this level consists of the integration of social, ethical and ecological aspects into business operations and decision-making, provided it contributes to the financial bottom line. The motivation for CS-R is a business case: CS-R is promoted if profitable, for example because of an improved reputation in various markets (customers / employees / shareholders).
· Community: Care-driven CS-R:
CS-R consists of balancing economic, social and ecological concerns, which are all three important in themselves. CS-R initiatives go beyond legal compliance and beyond profit considerations. The motivation for CS-R is that human potential, social responsibility and care for the planet are as such important.
· Synergy: integral-driven CS-R:
CSR consists of a search for well-balanced, functional solutions creating value in the economic, social and ecological realms of corporate performance, in a synergistic, win-together approach with all relevant stakeholders. The motivation for CS-R is that sustainability is important in itself, especially because it is recognized as being the inevitable direction progress takes.
· Holistic CS-R:
CS-R fully integrated and embedded in every aspect of the organization, aimed at contributing to the quality and continuation of life of every being and entity, now and in the future. The motivation for CS-R that sustainability is the only alternative since all beings and phenomena are mutually interdependent. Each person or organization therefore has a universal responsibility towards all other beings.

3. ECSF Framework is new generation management framework
ECSF is not based on a reductionist approach, nor does it focus to one particular corporate development level. Based on Spiral Dynamics (multiple development levels), SqEME® (holistic and integral view on business operations) and European Way to Excellence (1996), the ECSF framework respectfully clusters corporate ambitions regarding CS-R and business excellence with feasible implementation strategies, ranging from traditional management approaches to outlooks on future attemps. Moreover, a set of proven and popular management models, such as the EFQMs Business Excellence Model, Four Phase model and Balanced Scorecard are included in the framework to stucture corporate planning and support CS-R implementation.

4. A coherent set of measuring, assessing and benchmarking corporate performance, which fit the stakeholder approach and supporting community values;
· Responsive Business Scorecard (VU-IVM/Triple P Initiative)
A pilot has been developed on updating the balanced scorecard with the inclusion of economical indicators with social and environmental indicators, as they are relevant for a specific industry. The Kaplan & Nortons format of the Balanced Scorecard has been transformed in a Responsive Business Scorecard, based on Community Values. This is a community-driven and system-oriented approach to the scorecard, taking into account the engagement with the organizations stakeholder
· Industry specific SRI-CSR Benchmark format (Triple P Initiative/VU-IVM)
While working together with ‘screeners’ and corporate representatives, the ECSF consortium has designed a basic benchmark format, applied for the food industry, which can be aligned with sustainability scorecards, management information systems and reporting systems.
· Management Information Systems (SCS Consulting)
Adopting a more complex level of CS implies that the management information systems must be adjusted to include social and environmental management information. A basic analyses has been made on the corporate needs for specific information with respect to various objectives [RBS, MIS, Positioning, Reporting, Benchmarking]. A pilot has been conducted demonstrating actual cases how such MIS can be developed and implemented in line with the fore mentioned RBS en benchmark format.

5. Improvement strategies to change, shift or transform corporate performances with respect to CS-R, thus enhancing their profits, social and ecological performance,
ECSF has structured a database of over 100 management tools, both traditional ones and recently developed. Per context and situation, the tools are listed which are most adequate in implementing corporate improvement and related CS-R ambitions.
Furthermore, an online ECSF self-assessment tool has been placed on then ECSF- website
This online positioning tool on CS implementation includes:
· Value audit: Discover your interpretation on Corporate Sustainability
· Strategy scan: Learn about the most important strategic interventions and elements to monitor.
· Self-assessment: Assess your organizationas effectiveness regarding your Corporate Sustainability ambitions
· Toolbox: Select your most adequate tools within a database of over 100 Corporate Sustainability and regular management tools
· Benchmark: Compare yourself with other results

The ECSF framework and related (online) tools, models and methods are described in various papers and reports which can be downloaded from