Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Current state of CSR

CSR, as viewed by the EC, remains a voluntary initiative for European businesses to practice that goes above and beyond what is required by law. Since 2001, there have been a number of initiatives around CSR led by the various Directorate Generals (DG) of the EC in order to raise awareness and understanding among stakeholders and the general public. Although the EC’s interest in CSR remains high, there is no consensus over the future shaping of mandatory law in this space. There is however a continuing dialogue over its future through the European Alliance on CSR, of which Eurosif is the investor stakeholder.

Eurosif position

Eurosif believes that CSR should largely remain a voluntary initiative but that there are areas within its large remit, such as transparency, that can be tackled more effectively through the legislative process. In regards to CSR, Eurosif has had various initiatives over the years (i.e submitting responses to CSR related Green Papers, organising a series of CSR related workshops, etc)  and has been participating in the Multistakeholder Forum on CSR led by the EC, as a member of the Coordination Committee. Eurosif continues to play a role as the investor stakeholder in the European Alliance on CSR.

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European Multi-stakeholder Forum on CSR- Plenary Meetings (2007-2010)

In 2002, the EC set up the Multi-Stakeholder Forum as a means to generate a consensus from a diverse group of different stakeholders representing the European civil society.

In 2007, Eurosif was invited by the EC to be an official member of the Coordination Committee of the European Multi-stakeholder Forum on CSR.
On behalf of Xavier Prats (Director for Employment Policy, Lisbon Strategy and International Affairs at the DG for Employment, Social Policy and Equal Opportunities), and Pedro Ortún (Director at the DG Enterprise and Industry), Eurosif was officially invited to participate in ongoing forum discussions on improving knowledge about the relationship between CSR and sustainable development, and exploring the appropriateness of establishing common guiding principles for CSR practices and instruments. Matt Christensen, Eurosif Executive Director has been participating in the Forum's meetings since 2007.

2010 European Multistakeholder Forum on CSR - Plenary Meeting

On November 29-30, 2010, the European Commission (EC) organised the European Multistakeholder Forum Plenary Meeting on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainable and Responsible Investment (SRI).  The meeting gathered EC representatives, the private sector, investor and company associations, NGOs, trade unions and academia to discuss the future of EU CSR Policy, to be framed in the upcoming 2011 EC Communication on CSR.

Eurosif was invited by the European Commission as a representative of the EU investor community and to provide a contribution in shaping the evolution of EU Policy.

Commissioners Michel Barnier (DG Internal Market) and László Andor (DG Employment and Social Affairs) and EC Vice-president Antonio Tajani (Industry and Entrepreneurship) all made presentations at the meeting, highlighting the European Commission’s position and interest in this area.

EU Commissioner Michel Barnier made clear during his speech that the EC is taking a close look at how Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting can be improved so that all market actors are better equipped to understand these important risks when making decisions and judgments about corporate strategies.

As part of this process, on November 22 the EC launched a Consultation on Non-Financial Reporting, to which all interested parties are invited to submit responses by January 24, 2011.

Matt Christensen, Executive Director of Eurosif, was a panel speaker in the final session “CSR Policy- where next?”, and made the following recommendations to the Commission:

  • Publicly listed large corporations should be mandated to disclose non-financial data on ESG issues or explain why they do not comply.
  • From an investor point of view, ESG data disclosure should be mandatory for investors, with the obligation for investors to discuss how they do or do not integrate non-financial (ESG) data into their investment practices.
  • The EC should create a uniform framework on voting disclosure for investors and ensure that there is an obligation for institutional investors to communicate electronically their investment policy, including around ESG matters, to their beneficiaries on an annual basis.
  • The EC should establish a Working Group to help harmonise the excellent work that has been done by existing initiativessuch as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), EFFAS and others in the area of ESG disclosure, with a commitment to act within a two-year time frame.
  • With a view to improving ESG knowledge among market actors, the EC should be ready to support capacity building in the marketso that actors are properly prepared and educated on ESG issues (i.e ESG resource centres).

Eurosif has written a number of responses to EC consultations on these subjects. “In a post-crisis environment, the EU is clearly at a new threshold today in 2010 in its understanding of the importance of ESG factors. For example, there is now much more consensus on the need for a proper framework around ESG disclosure. The European Commission should now act in a meaningful and helpful way to create clarity for investors and companies on ESG matters,” said Matt Christensen.

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2007 European Multistakeholder Forum on CSR - Plenary Meeting

 The first 2007 meeting discussed three primary areas that could be sources of future collaboration among the different stakeholders: Education/Research into CSR matters, Transparency/Credibility of the CSR/SRI field, and an analysis of the EC-published Compendium of Existing CSR/SRI Initiatives. On the second 2007 meeting, Eurosif provided input on transparency needs for improved relations between investors and other stakeholders. One of Eurosif's key objective in being an active member of the Multi-stakeholder Forum has been to raise the profile of SRI in the discussion so that the Commission better understands the impact SRI makes on CSR.

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CSR Report published by the European Parliament (2007)

 The European Parliament published in March 2007 a report on “Corporate Social Responsibility: a new partnership”. The following articles in the report may be of particular interest to you:

  • Article 16 addresses investors and support “full participation by investors as stakeholders in the CSR debate at the EU level”. This is an important step in advancing SRI across Europe and deepening the knowledge about the relationship between CSR and sustainable development.
  • Article 27 invites the European Commission to revisit the proposal to include social and environmental reporting alongside financial reporting as a means to “raise awareness of the provisions concerning social and environmental reporting within the 2001 Commission Recommendation on environmental disclosure”. This is a positive advancement and echoes work that Eurosif has been doing for the past several years to address social, environmental considerations in a harmonised fashion across Europe.
  • Following on some of the trends in the Member States, Article 33 goes on to demand that the EC consider an EU-wide “statement of interest [ sic] principles for investment funds” to achieve their goals. Additionally, Eurosif has asked that the European Parliament ensure that 'interest' is replaced by the word 'investment' as this was a mistake in the document.

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Conference "CSR at the global level: what role for the EU?"

Eurosif was invited to attend this conference in Brussels on December 7, 2007, which was organised by the DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.

In his keynote speech, John Ruggie, special representative of the UN Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and businesses, outlined challenges to the standard model of CSR he has seen across the world:

John Ruggie mentioned the lack of an authoritative system of best practices, best benchmarking – and suggested that the EU could play a role in generating soft standards in this respect.

In her speech, Nicole Notat, Chairwoman of Vigeo, invited the EU to integrate responsible investors in the EU CSR framework and to facilitate the generalisation of CSR reporting. She also suggested that the EU could develop some sort of accreditation for rating agencies and their methodologies.

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Green Paper on CSR (2001)

In July 2001 the EC's DG for Employment and Social Affairs published a consultation Green Paper on CSR and called for responses from stakeholders.

Eurosif's response to the Green Paper, in brief, called for increased transparency, disclosure and reporting from companies, SRI research agencies, regulatory bodies and all pooled investment vehicles e.g. pension funds. The submission also called for EC support for research on CSR and SRI, the integration of social and environmental considerations into public procurement policies and encouragement for the integration of CSR and SRI into education syllabuses.

A full copy of the submission is below. All responses to the Green Paper, including submissions from Eurosif and the UK Social Investment Forum, can be viewed from the EC's website:

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(Last Updated: January 2011)