In this communication, the Commission announces backing for a European Alliance for CSR. This is an open alliance of European enterprises to further promote and encourage CSR. The alliance is a political umbrella for CSR initiatives by large companies, small and medium-sized enterprises, and their stakeholders. It is not a legal instrument to be signed by enterprises, but rather a vehicle for mobilising the resources and capacities of European enterprises and their stakeholders in the interests of sustainable development, economic growth and job creation.

The communication acknowledges that enterprises are the primary actors in CSR, but also stresses the important contribution of non-business stakeholders. In the text, the Commission states that “it continues to attach utmost importance to dialogue with and between all stakeholders”, and recognises that “without the active support and constructive criticism of non-business stakeholders, CSR will not flourish.”

The communication underlines the potential of CSR to contribute to sustainable development and to the European Growth and Jobs Strategy. The Commission suggests that CSR practices, while not a substitute for public policy, can nevertheless contribute to a number of public policy objectives, such as: skills development, more rational use of natural resources, better innovation performance, poverty reduction, and greater respect for human rights.

The communication also identifies 8 areas which the Commission will emphasise in further promoting CSR:

Ã?? Awareness-raising and best practice exchange

Ã?? Support to multi-stakeholder initiatives

Ã?? Cooperation with Member States

Ã?? Consumer information and transparency

Ã?? Research

Ã?? Education

Ã?? Small and medium-sized enterprises

Ã?? The international dimension of CSR

The communication and backing for the launch of the European Alliance mark an important new stage in the development of European policy on CSR.

Previous policy initiatives at EU level

In its Communication of July 2002 (COM (2002)347 final of 2.7.2002 ), the Commission proposed a strategy focused on the following areas:

Ã?? Increasing knowledge about the positive impact of CSR on business and societies in Europe and abroad, in particular in developing countries;

Ã?? Developing the exchange of experience and good practice on CSR between enterprises;

Ã?? Promoting the development of CSR management skills;

Ã?? Fostering CSR among SMES

Ã?? Facilitating convergence and transparency of CSR practices and tools;

Ã?? Launching a Multi-Stakeholder Forum on CSR at EU level;

Ã?? Integrating CSR into Community policies.

The European Multi-stakeholder Forum was launched in October 2002, and produced its final report in July 2004.

The 2002 Communication was written following a public consultation launched by the Commission’s Green Paper of July 2001 (COM (2001)366 final of 18.7.2001 ) entitled ‘Promoting a European Framework for Corporate Social Responsibility’. The aims of this document were to launch a debate about the concept of CSR and to identify how to build a partnership for the development of a European approach to CSR. Over 250 responses were received to this paper, half of which came from European enterprises.