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Redefining CSR at the European Parliament

 

This past 1st October, the hearing on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) organized by the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliament within the framework of “The review of the 2011-2014 EU strategy on CSR” was held at the European Parliament in Brussels.

The Committee on Legal Affairs as well as the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs have agreed to write two reports on the vision of CSR in accordance with the communication made public by the European Commission on this topic.

The hearing of the Legal Affairs Committee was chaired by MEP Raffaele Baldassarre (European People’s Party) and was divided into four (4) panels in which representatives from the EU, companies, associations and NGOs took part:  Panel I Redefining CSR, Panel II Raising the value of CSR, Panel III Regulating CSR, Panel IV Promoting CSR and Panel V Improving CSR.

The hearing was attended by Telefónica and had a large following, due to the fact that, as MEP Baldassarre stated, it involved a topic that is attracting a considerable amount of interest both in society as well as in the public agenda of EU countries and institutions. The economic crisis in Europe is making companies consider CSR as a tool for enhancing their competitiveness.  In this respect, Europe was an example of CSR and sustainability.

Among the various speeches by the participants on the different panels, we can highlight the following:

◦On Panel I, Susan Bird from the Directorate General for Employment at the Commission, highlighted how companies’ social policies could generate business opportunities and the importance of CSR for finding a way out of the current crisis.

◦On Panel II, the CSR policies of Enel and BMW were presented, in which both companies stressed CSR as a transversal policy of the company.  For BMW, it did not involve an evolution rather a revolution that wanted to change the group’s production and company model.

This panel also featured Paul de Clerk, from Friends of the Earth, who pointed out that companies must be held accountable for their actions and really make a commitment to environmental protection, respecting human rights, etc.

◦On Panel III, Ugo Bassi DG Internal Market Director, explained that a draft was being prepared with the Commission’s position on CSR policy that will be presented in the coming weeks.  The Commission, in principle, does not wish to impose any obligations that would entail an additional cost to companies. However, it did emphasize that new objectives will be proposed, given the importance of CSR for the socio-economic development of the EU.

Rebekah Smith, of Business Europe, stressed that European companies were convinced of the benefits of reporting their actions involving CSR and working with its stakeholders.  She also noted the importance of international frameworks – UN Global Compact, GRI, etc. – in order to avoid any fragmentation of national regulations.

◦Representatives from SMEs took part in Panel IV and highlighted the role that these companies play in their communities and asked that no regulatory obligations involving CSR be placed upon them.

◦Finally on Panel V, Stefan Crets of CSR Europe, stressed that the economic crisis had resulted in the lower confidence and legitimacy of companies which made promoting CSR even more important for increasing their transparency and creating value through social innovation

The hearing on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) organized by the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament highlighted the interest shown by the EU in CSR and the effort that companies are making to turn it into a tool that promotes their competitiveness and that helps them to overcome the current economic crisis.

Additional information:  Access the press release by the EPP Group at the European Parliament here.

 

 

 

Eduardo Puig de la Bellacasa, Director of Institutional Relations. Global Public Affairs Department of Telefónica, S.A.

 

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