In July 2001, the European Commission issued a Green Paper on a European framework for corporate social responsibility (CSR). The aim was to launch a wide debate among the stakeholders. For an overview of the responses from various stakeholders, see “Forces@Work”.
The European Parliament’s rapporteur on the Green Paper on CSR is Richard Howitt (UK-PES), who is a member of the Employment and Social Committee. However, the Industry Committee has also been asked to contribute its comments on the paper. The contribution, drafted by Caroline Lucas (UK-PES) highlights the following issues:
companies should be required to state their policy on CSR (even if the company chooses not to have a policy);
the EU should not develop new codes of conducts, but build on existing ones;
the Commission should set an example by applying social and environmental criteria in its public procurement policy;
the human right clauses in trade agreements should be strengthened;
the EU should establish a registration agency to control that codes of conducts meet a minimum standard;
the Commission should actively support the Global Reporting Initiative;
Within three years the Commission should propose a directive that requires companies to undertake annual social and environmental reports.
The contribution is well in line with the draft document published by the Employment and Social Committee.
in its response to the Green Paper CSR Europe has demanded a flexible approach with no mandatory regulations on e.g. reporting, because of the risk that it would inhibit the companies’ creativity. Instead, the Commission should focus on spreading best-practice and on promoting CSR, through for example a European Year of CSR.
NGOs such as Solidar, on the other hand, have called for a standardised reporting system with certified verification. They have also emphasised that the EU should first focus on compliance with existing social and labour laws, before encouraging additional voluntary actions.
The opinion is scheduled for adoption in the Employment and Social Affairs Committee in April. It will thereafter go to plenary session in May.
In July 2002 the Commission is expected to issue a communication on CSR, which should outline action programmes to be launched in the near future.