At its final meeting today, high level representatives of business, trade unions and civil society presented the final report of the EU Multi-Stakeholder Forum on corporate social responsibility to Enterprise and Employment Commissioners Erkki Liikanen and Stavros Dimas. The report, containing recommendations on raising awareness, building capacity and creating an enabling environment, represents the final outcome of 20 months of intense discussions. It draws on the work of four thematic Round Tables which examined Knowledge, SMEs, Development aspects and Transparency. More than 50 concrete experiences were presented by companies together with their stakeholders in twelve Round Table meetings. The report places CSR firmly within the context of the EU’s Lisbon strategy where, in the year 2000, EU leaders first appealed to business to demonstrate a sense of social responsibility.
The Forum was set up in October 2002 as a key element of the Commission’s strategy to foster CSR. The Commission has played a facilitating role throughout the process. The initial challenge of bringing the main stakeholder groups around the table in a constructive atmosphere was successfully met. Everyone admits that it has been an intensive learning process which centred on the Forum’s twofold objective of improving knowledge and exploring the appropriateness of common guiding principles on CSR. Some differences remained until the end on controversial issues such as company reporting and the role of public authorities in promoting CSR.
But stakeholders were able to reach a common -baseline’ understanding of the CSR concept as an important contribution to sustainable development. They reaffirmed that CSR is the voluntary integration of environmental and social considerations into core business operations over and above legal obligations and is based on dialogue with stakeholders. The Forum agreed a set of nine mutually reinforcing recommendations to show the way forward for CSR in the European Union. The recommendations are addressed to enterprises and their stakeholders as well as to public authorities and EU institutions. A challenge ahead for all parties involved is how to put the recommendations into practice. Stakeholders propose that a first joint review meeting should be held in two years’ time.
Following today’s meeting, the Commission will assess progress made in relation to its 2002 CSR strategy, drawing in particular on the Forum report, with a view to adopting a new Communication on CSR by the end of 2004